IT was left to the U18s Academy squad to make the long trip to the blustery East Coast to make it a 100% weekend for the Saints against Rovers – beating their hosts 30-18.
Coach Derek Traynor made one or two changes giving a first start to Tom Wood at centre and a debut to Jack White back in Saints colours after a sojourn on the banks of the Mersey at Widnes.
Captain James Tilley won the toss electing to play with the New Craven Park gale in the first half but as always seems to be the case at this venue the Saints didn’t use the elements and made heavy weather of the first period.
The home side opened the scoring after the Saints had withstood three consecutive sets of six on their line, but the defence finally cracked allowing the loose forward in for the first of his double.
The Saints hit back as Greg Richards accepted a Rovers pass in their own 20 metre area. Luke Thompson went close but from the play the ball Lewis Sheridan somehow managed to crawl through a non existent gap to score.
Rovers went back in front as the Saints were guilty of failing to number up in defence and thereby unable to counter the loose forward cutting back to the sticks to score.
Lewis Charnock finally used the wind in putting up a towering restart which fell with unerring accuracy virtually on the dead ball line. It was allowed to bounce and Rovers were made to kick out from under the sticks. The ball hardly travelled 40 metres and the Saints were right back on the attack scoring a fine try. Offloads from Sheridan and Brad Ashurst put Connor Dwyer away and the big prop celebrated his continuing recovery with a great try.
Despite this success the Saints failed to put the home side under any more pressure and the scores remained level at the break.
Confidence was high for the second period but everyone was under no illusions that a smarter performance was essential if any success was to be gleaned.
Rovers went ahead minutes into the restart as they caught the Saints defence napping on the blind side going 60 metres to score.
But the score should have been the other way around as Luke Thompson had earlier forced the pass instead of taking the tackle and scoring on the next.
But the Saints weren’t daunted and were again unlucky. A last tackle high kick from Jack White was caught by Tilley who, had he reacted quicker and flicked the pass out could have created a try, was instead caught in possession.
The Saints were growing in confidence and some aggressive defence was forcing the home side into errors. The Saints levelled the match from a scrum on the Rovers 10 from such a knock on as Charnock put Ben Parry in at the right corner. The loose forward then slotted a terrific goal from the touchline into the teeth of the wind.
The home side were hanging on at this stage and given a little composure the result could have been secured much earlier.
Firstly, Charnock recovered his own last tackle bomb giving it out to Lewis Galbraith but the big centre decided to keep the ball and was tackled instead of feeding his winger who would have scored.
Then the again impressive Thompson went on a weaving 40 metre run but passed inside to a Rovers defender relieving the pressure.
The deadlock was finally broken by Captain Tilley. A Sheridan grubber gave the Saints a repeat set. Charnock, Ashurst and Richards all charged the ball in before Tilley slipped through to the right of the sticks.
The match wasn’t over, however, and try saving tackles from Thompson and Matt Cooke and Galbraith and Corey Lee were required to keep the Saints in front.
Thompson finally got his just desserts for a great power running display as he scored on the final whistle after good offloads from White and Lewis Foster.
Whilst this was far from the best overall performance the result was gained by a second half performance of guts and determination which ground the opposition into surrender.
All the pack were good, Matt Cooke and Chris Webster made a big difference in that second period but all the plaudit should go to the 80 minute man Tilley who led from the front as ever.
Tries: Lewis Holdstock, Scott Ellerington 2.
Goals: Josh Gudzek 3.
Tries: Ben Parry, Lewis Sheridan, Luke Thompson, James Tilley, Connor Dwyer.
Goals: Lewis Charnock 5.
Half Time: 12-12
Full Time: 30-18
1. Josh Gudzek; 2. Dary Love, 3. Richard Clayphon, 4. Dave Harrison, 5. Jack Stewart; 6. Matty Marsh, 7. Lewis Holdstock; 22. Ryan Devaney, 9. Connor Robinson, 10. Nathan Grant, 11. Sonny Esslemont, 12. Alex Gilbey, 13. Scott Ellerington.
Subs: 14. Callum Tolson, 15. Craig Smith, 16. Tom Sullivan, 17. Ryan Brown.
1. Corey Lee; 2. Ben Parry, 3. Matt Wood, 4. Lewis Galbraith, 5. Ben Roberts; 6. Tom Roughley, 7. Lewis Sheridan; 8. Greg Richards, 9. Lewis Foster, 10. Matt Cooke, 11. Luke Thompson, 12. James Tilley, 13. Lewis Charnock.
Subs: 14. Jack White, 15. Chris Webster, 17. Brad Ashurst, 20. Connor Dwyer.