THE first ever Saints-Wigan derby at Langtree Park went the way of the Saints 34-30 as a resilient second half display saw the points go to the home team, writes Graham Henthorne.
The winning try came courtesy of an 80 metre, sorry centimetre, dash from Joe Bate for his first try in the Red Vee at Reserve team level.
The Saints feel behind early on as some poor tackling allowed the full back to score wide out, but as the pack started to exert their dominance the lead changed hands.
Drives from the Jordan’s Hand and Case took the Saints close before Ant Walker scattered three defenders to score.
Alex Trumper missed a sitter of a chance from Lee Gaskell down the left before the stand off increased the lead going over himself taking Joe Greenwood’s return ball after putting the big second row through the line on halfway.
As the half ticked away so a bit of fatigue crept in and the visitors moved back ahead with two tries in an eight minute spell.
Big Aaron McCloskey got his first experience of the derby atmosphere and it was his drive that culminated in the Saints getting their noses back in front at oranges. Walker was again halted short and on the last Danny Jones reacted quickest to pounce on Gaskell’s grubber to the line. Mar Percival’s third conversion giving the Saints the lead.
After announcing at half time that the next team to score would go a long way to winning the game, Coach Ian Talbot was wishing he could take it back as poor defence at a scrum allowed the visitors to regain the lead soon after the restart.
However, again led by Walker and Jones the Saints rolled up their sleeves and set about the opposition.
It was centre Mark Percival who had a major role in kick starting the recovery as he firstly just failed to ground Gaskell’s grubber before his and Greenwood’s quick hands almost put Greg Wilde in at the corner.
It was his quick reactions that allowed him to pluck Gaskell’s charged down kick out of thin air then hand off and outstrip his opponent to the sticks.
The Saints were winning the penalty count and made it pay with territorial advantage putting the visitors constantly on the back foot.
Drives from Jones and Joe Bate saw the prop stopped short and from the play the ball Gaskell took it to the line before whipping the ball out to Percival who in the blink of an eye flicked it out to Wilde who dove in at the corner.
From the restart the pack again took advantage of some indiscipline and Jones’ miss pass put Bate over under the posts at the Saints end to score the winning try.
Two late scores to the visitors made the finish a little tighter than it should have been but the points were already in the bag.
For a team missing vital players either on first team duty or injured this was a great win. There were creditable showings from McCloskey and James Tilley, Gaskell, Yates and Speakman form a great triangle in mid-field for the likes of Percival to benefit from. But it’s the formidable pack led by Ant Walker and Mr Perpetual motion Danny Jones who deserve all the plaudits they get.
Tries: Greg Wilde, Mark Percival, Lee Gaskell, Anthony Walker, Danny Jones, Joe Bate.
Goals: Mark Percival 5.
Tries: Matty Russell, John O’Donnell, Ryan King 2, George Williams, Liam Carberry .
Goals: Jack Murphy 2, Scott Leatherbarrow.
Half Time: 18-16
Full Time: 34-30
1. Greg Wilde; 2. Jayden Sandford, 3. Mark Percival, 4. Alex Trumper, 18. Corey Lee; 6. Lee Gaskell, 7. Danny Yates; 8. Jordan Hand, 9. Dom Speakman, 10. Anthony Walker, 16. Jordan Case, 12. Joe Greenwood, 13. Danny Jones.
Subs: 14. Marcus Baines, 15. James Tilley, 11. Aaron McCloskey, 17. Joe Bate.
1. Matty Russell; 2. Amos Roberts, 3. Jack Murphy, 4. John O’Donnell, 5. Ryan King; 6. George Williams, 7. Scott Leatherbarrow; 8. Dom Crosby, 9. Liam Carberry, 10. Greg Burke, 11. Connor Farrell, 12. Rhodri Lloyd, 13. Kieran Harrison.
Subs: 18. Matty Crow, 15. Drew Johnson, 16. James Greenwood, 17. Rob Lever.