LAST week was good… this week was real ‘heroes all’ stuff as Saints beat Warrington 28-16 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Four tries and 22 points had them flying in the first half before an immense defensive effort saw them record their second win on the bounce.
This was a performance of guile, craft and skill – and producing tackles when it mattered.
It also showed that Saints can get over little bits of adversity and keep their heads in a cauldron like atmosphere.
Not many people expected a repeat of last week’s first half performance, but you can expect the unexpected with Saints at the moment.
They steamrolled Warrington into submission and were 22-0 up in as many minutes.
Lance Hohaia and Jonny Lomax dominated proceedings with Paul Wellens and a menacing, but depleted pack, giving them great go forward.
A double from the captain, plus tries from Ade Gardner and Francis Meli gave Saints a deserved advantage.
In the second half, Joel Monaghan brought Warrington back into it with a try that had a minor hint of obstruction before the video ref ruled out yet another Saints’ score.
It was then backs the wall stuff as Saints gave away penalties – but defended like their lives depended on it.
And it took a charging Sia Soliola to pop up with a massive score to ultimately secure a famous win.
Saints were forced to make a couple of changes before kick-off with Tony Puletua and Gary Wheeler both failing late fitness tests.
That saw Josh Jones make his debut in the centre at the age of 19; you can hardly get a bigger baptism of fire than a match at the league leaders!
So, he couldn’t have been happier to see his teammates get off to an absolute flyer.
You build pressure through possession and when Saints gained two repeat sets, Warrington had no answer.
Firstly a Jonny Lomax kick on the last was charged down and then on Saints’ next set Warrington knocked on.
That gave Saints a scrum on Wolves’ 20 and from there the ball went right through Lomax and Wellens to Gardner who showed pace and power to charge over.
Lomax converting from the touchline.
Saints could have scored again moments later with a sweeping move; but as the ball went right it also went to ground.
On their next set they didn’t disappoint. A break from Jon Wilkin and a little drop off ball to Lomax saw Wellens clean up and send the Saints fans barmy.
Lomax making it 12-0.
And Saints were in dreamland shortly after as a planned move saw Lomax and Hohaia combine for Paul Wellens to nudge his second.
Lomax converting once more.
The returning Sia Soliola had one ruled out by the video referee who correctly ruled he knocked on over the line but Saints didn’t have to wait long for their fourth of the night – and it came on the back of Wolves’ pressure.
Two sets right on Saints’ line after two penalties saw some wonderful defence and a quite outstanding transition from defence to attarck.
Down the field through Gardner, they then exploited the Wolves’ left hand side and on the last Lomax managed to flip an impossible ball out and Meli sidestepped in untouched.
But as the hooter got warmed referee Ben Thaler called Saints for not playing the ball and back chat and it was too easy for Brett Hodgson to gain space to score – a try he converted to make it a 16 point ball game.
From the restart it was calamity time in the Warrington defence that ended up with Saints getting the ball over the line, but the video referee said ‘no try’ and it was left 22-6 at half time.
Warrington aren’t top of the league for a reason and they came out looking fired up – but it was Saints that almost scored. A simple kick was knocked on by Brett Hodgson about a millisecond before Gardner would have touched down.
The drop out came to nothing, as did another chance seconds later.
Warrington then made Saints pay, getting up the field with a penalty and scoring through Joel Monaghan.
The video ref then ruled out Saints third ‘try’ of the night, again probably correctly, for a knock-on.
They could have done with a stroke of luck as they were beginning to tire.
To be honest Warrington weren’t fairing much better either, losing the ball on countless occasions when they had prime territorial advantage.
In fact, Saints spent the majority of the half defending their own 40.
But when they got the chance, they put the game to bed. And it was Sia Soliola with a massive drive, three hanging off him, who plunged over.
Lomax added the extras and moments later Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook went 70 yards to set up another Saints score.
Or so it seemed, as the video ref waved off his bulldozing run after a couple of drives… No such thing as fourth time lucky then?
Saints were always in the driving seat though and with the away support going mental they saw home the win – Ryan Atkins grabbing an all too late consolation to a stadium that was half full.
Tries: Hodgson, J. Monaghan, Atkins
Goals: Hodgson (2 from 3)
Tries: Gardner, Wellens (2), Meli, Soliola
Goals: Lomax (4 from 5)
REF: Ben Thaler
1. Brett Hodgson; 2. Chris Riley, 18. Matty Blythe, 4. Ryan Atkins, 5. Joel Monaghan; 6. Lee Briers, 7. Richie Myler; 8. Adrian Morley, 9. Michael Monaghan, 16. Paul Wood, 11. Trent Waterhouse, 15. Simon Grix, 17. Mike Cooper.
Subs: 3. Chris Bridge, 10. Garreth Carvell, 14. Micky Higham, 20. Chris Hill.
1. Paul Wellens; 2. Ade Gardner, 3. Michael Shenton, 26. Josh Jones, 5. Francis Meli; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax; 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 4. Sia Soliola, 13. Chris Flannery, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Paul Clough, 18. Shaun Magennis.