SAINTS showed Super League why they are still a force to be reckoned with as they produced a fine 31-18 win over Leeds Rhinos.
Jonny Lomax led the way with a brace and a crucial drop goal but it would be wrong to not pay tribute to the other 16 players who showed real pride and passion.
The pack was superbly led by Josh Perry whilst Tommy Makinson’s winger performance and fantastic try was a real highlight.
A tight tussle of a match was all-square at the break as Saints weathered early pressure to fight back before Leeds scored right on the half time hooter.
The home side punished an error to lead 6-0 before tries from Lomax and Paul Wellens forged Saints ahead.
But with seconds left a penalty was punished and Brett Delaney drew level.
Leeds profited from another Saints error early in the second period before the visitors turned the match its head.
Tommy Makinson put down under immense pressure then Sia Soliola broke through and found Jonny Lomax.
James Roby then fired a sublime flat ball on the last to send over Jon Wilkin.
Lomax added a penalty and a drop goal as the clock ticked down to seal a real gutsy win.
The match started with big hits from both sides and great high catches from Makinson and Paul, as well as a clearing kick from Perry of all people.
But on the 10 minute mark Leeds punished a Saints error to take the lead. Gary Wheeler knocked on in the 40 and from the scrum the ball went left and through the hands of Brent Webb and Ryan Hall for Danny McGuire to polish off.
Kevin Sinfield adding the extras.
Saints struggled to get out of their half after the try but did welcome back Tony Puletua from injury – the only change from the side that lost to Wigan last Saturday
And just after the big man returned to the field Lance Hohaia’s kick caused panic in the Leeds defence and his half-back partner Jonny Lomax reacted the quickest.
He then converted his try to bring it all square.
Saints’ next try was world class. Paul Clough was strong in the middle but Puletua’s flick pass got Roby on the way. He broke the line, fed Lomax who had Wellens on his outside for his 199th in the red vee.
The lead was short-lived though as Brett Delaney profited on a Saints penalty and missed tackle to level it up.
It shouldn’t have happened as Saints were right on Leeds’ line, but poor discipline cost them and it was 12-12 at the break.
Makinson took a fantastic high ball early in the early half before Saints put real pressure on Leeds’ line.
But McGuire scooped up a nice Lomax chip through to quell the danger.
After a poor kick on the last, Leeds got down the other end of the field and Jamie Jones-Buchanan put on a step to leave Saints flat-footed and behind on the board.
Sinfield adding his third of the night.
Saints weren’t going to give up though and after chancing their arm on the right hand side, Michael Shenton flipped a ball Jamie Lyon-esque and Makinson put down under a massive Webb hit.
And in the 58th minute it got better as Jonny Lomax saw a chink in the Leeds defence, sent through Soliola who then fed his provider to put Saints ahead.
Makinson adding his second conversion of the night.
Unfortunately, that was Makinson’s last action of the evening as on the next tackle he was hit high by Sinfield – perhaps accidental – and was carried off the field.
That caused Mike Rush a headache but he reacted by moving Wheeler to the wing and Flannery to the centres.
And it worked as Flannery’s dummy run caused problems and on the last Roby found a fantastic flat ball for Jon Wilkin to get in.
Lomax adding his second.
Saints continued to press the Leeds’ line and were rewarded when Leeds were penalised and Lomax slotted over a penalty.
And as the game entered its final stages, Lomax added a one-pointer and sent the Saints support into raptures.
Tries: McGuire, Delaney, Jones-Buchanan
Goals: Sinfield (3 from 3)
Tries: Lomax (2), Wellens, Makinson, Wilkin
Goals: Lomax (3 from 3), Makinson (2 from 3)
REF: Steve Ganson
1. Paul Wellens; 21. Tommy Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 17. Gary Wheeler, 5. Francis Meli; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax; 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 9. James Roby, 8. Josh Perry, 13. Chris Flannery, 4. Sia Soliola, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Tony Puletua, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Paul Clough.
1. Brent Webb; 14. Lee Smith, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Zak Hardaker, 5. Ryan Hall; 13. Kevin Sinfield, 6. Danny McGuire; 8. Kylie Leuluai, 7. Rob Burrow, 10. Jamie Peacock, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 15. Brett Delaney, 12. Carl Ablett.
Subs: 16. Ryan Bailey, 18. Chris Clarkson, 20. Darrell Griffin, 31. Shaun Lunt.