A MAJESTIC second half display saw the Saints stun the table topping Wolves 40-13 to hand them only their third defeat of the season, writes Graham Henthorne.
Tormentor in chief, with a personal haul of 20 points, was the enigmatic Lee Gaskell. Operating from the unfamiliar full back position he was always a danger to the Wolves with his deceptive pace and the ability to ghost through the tightest of defences.
It’s almost customary for the Saints to give their opposition a start and tonight was no different as some poor tackling let the Wolves in for a sloppy try.
But that stung the Saints into action and for the next quarter of an hour both teams struggled to find an opening.
As time wore on the Saints looked the more likely. Firstly Nathan Ashe was beaten to the touchdown from his own grubber, then Adam Swift knocked on as he hit the floor after being put away by Scott Hales pass.
A big defensive set on their own line from the Saints kept the Wolves at bay. Jordan Case picked up the last tackle grubber and four tackles later Ashe’s show and go on half way created the space for him to put Danny Yates in under the posts.
From the restart the Saints hit the front as a sublime pass from stand-off (in his own mind) Ant Walker put Gaskell away. He shimmied one way then the other which proved too much for the full back who sat down to admire his opposite numbers skills allowing Gaskell to stroll in under the posts.
The kick off was allowed to bounce into touch and straight from the scrum the Wolves were in at the right corner.
Two minutes to go to the break the visitors surprisingly took a penalty to level the scores when the Saints were caught offside.
This willingness to kick for goal rather than try to break the Saints defensive line was used as a rallying cry at half time a fact backed up 10 minutes into the second half as the Wolves dropped a goal on the last tackle.
By that time the Saints had missed two golden opportunities to take the lead. James Tilley offloaded to Yates but the scrum half dummied instead of diving over and was again denied minutes later reaching for the line after collecting a great offload from Carl Forster.
The turning point came on the drop goal restart. The visitors lost possession on their own 30 and four tackles later watched as Gaskell collected Yates’ neat grubber to score.
Fierce tackling again forced the error with Gaskell this time providing the scoring pass for centre Gary Wheeler as he looped around the back of the Saints line.
The last hurrah for the Wolves came with 15 minutes left as they battered the Saints line only to come up empty handed yet again as the Saints showed an urgency in defence often sadly lacking.
On regaining possession Forster, Tilley and Walker marched down field only for Swift to rise salmon-like over the top of the Wolves static defenders to catch Ashe’s chip.
Further scores to Lewis Foster stretching out to score and Jayden Sandford taking Gaskell’s kick through on the final whistle put the icing on a very appetising cake.
This was a great confidence boosting performance. To dismantle the table toppers in such a clinical fashion augurs well for the future. There were some great individual displays from Swift and Hale. Yates, Gaskell and Ashe’s kicking always had the Wolves in trouble but as ever victories like this are made on the back of a dominant forward pack and tonight was no exception. Forster, Walker, Tilley and Danny Jones had the better of their opposite numbers and it showed on the scoreboard.
Tries: Lee Gaskell 2, Jayden Sandford, Adam Swift, Gary Wheeler, Danny Yates, Lewis Foster.
Goals: Lee Gaskell 6.
Tries: Danny Birkett, James Mendieka.
Goals: Gareth O’Brien 2.
Drop Goals: Bobbie Goulding.
Half Time: 12-12
Full Time: 40-13
1. Lee Gaskell; 2. Jayden Sandford, 3. Adam Swift, 18. Gary Wheeler, 5. Lewis Charnock; 6. Nathan Ashe, 7. Danny Yates; 8. Anthony Walker, 9. Marcus Baines, 10. Carl Forster, 11. Scott Hale, 12. Jordan Case, 13. Danny Jones.
Subs: 14. Lewis Foster, 15. James Tilley, 16. Alex Trumper, 17. Adam Hesketh.
1. Jordan Burke; 2. Danny Birkett, 4. Ben Hellewell, 3. James Mendieka, 5. Gene Ormsby; 7. Gareth O’Brien, 6. Bobbie Goulding; 20. Glenn Riley, 9. Brad Dwyer, 19. Jack Morrison, 11. James Laithwaite, 12. Danny Bridge, 13. Jack Cooper.
Subs: 14. Callan Beckett, 15. Andy Finn, 17. Ryan Maneely, 18. Brooke Broughton.