SAINTS bowed out of the Super League Playoffs with a heart-breaking 36-18 loss at home to Warrington.
Despite dominating the vast majority of the first hour, three tries in eight minutes saw their Grand Final hopes dashed.
But after a season of so much adversity there is still so much to admire about the character of this Saints team.
A tight, tense and tough old first half saw Saints lead 14-12.
Tommy Makinson lit the touchpaper with a cracker before Brett Hodgson pulled one back.
But the home side then kicked on and tries from Francis Meli and Paul Wellens put them in control; Simon Grix pulling one back at the death.
Saints had the better of the second half too, but Joel Monaghan was given a lucky one by the video referee to put them ahead.
Trent Waterhouse then took advantage of a penalty to put Warrington in control.
Seconds later, he did the same again as an obvious crossing call was ignored…
Francis Meli notched his brace with eight minutes to go but a late penalty from Brett Hodgson, who had a fine game, put the icing on the cake.
In what turned out to be his final game for the club, Chris Flannery came in for the injured Gary Wheeler in the only change from the side that beat Warrington two weeks ago. The Wolves welcomed back Ben Westwood and Ben Harrison in a strong looking side.
Warrington started well making more yardage in their opening set and testing the defence with a high ball.
But Saints were equally as strong on their opening drives to force the Wolves back on their heels.
Tommy Makinson almost scored when Paul Wellens put him in the clear – but Saints earned a repeat set as the chance was quelled.
And Warrington’s hearts were in their mouths when Francis Meli put down… the referee calling it back for a forward pass.
But on their next foray Saints did the business. A sweeping move from left to right had the ball in Tommy Makinson’s hands and he put down in mid-air whilst being smashed.
A wonderful effort from the youngster.
Warrington hit back in the 18th minute when Jon Wilkin slipped and hit the knee of the would be tackler with his head. The ball popped out and within a couple of tackles Chris Riley was over in the corner.
Brett Hodgson goaling to give them a slight lead.
Saints hit back in dramatic fashion. After the Wolves withstood three sets on their line and Roby was held up, Mark Flanagan got a superb looped pass out in the tackle to Francis Meli who made to mistake.
And with less than four minutes to go in the half it got even better as an absolute monster of a high bomb from Wilkin was spilled under pressure and mopped up by Paul Wellens.
Simon Grix replied as the half came to a close to leave his side just two points behind at the break.
In the second half a great covering tackle kept out Makinson before Saints mounted more pressure with some superb tactical kicking.
But when they were given the chance, Warrington didn’t disappoint and after a great run from Cooper and a Briers’ kick on the last, Joel Monaghan managed to mop up.
It went to the video referee and although it looked like a knock on, the ref gave the Wolves the benefit of the doubt.
Straightaway Saints forced Warrington on the back foot and Makinson bulldozed Chris Riley into touch. But they couldn’t find a way past the defence.
At the point the game was showing all the makings of a classic, and it stepped up a gear with the ferocity of tackling.
But after Warrington were given a penalty they raced up the field and Trent Waterhouse profited.
And seconds later, a blatant obstruction was ignored and Waterhouse raced through for his second.
Chris Riley grabbed his second then Meli scored with less than eight to go.
But when Brett Hodgson hit a penalty from 35 metres out to make it 36-18 it really was game over.
Tries: Makinson, Meli (2), Wellens
Goals: Makinson (1 from 4)
Tries: Riley (2), Grix, Monaghan J, Waterhouse (2)
Goals: Hodgson (6 from 6)
REF: Ben Thaler
1. Paul Wellens; 21. Tommy Makinson, 13. Chris Flannery, 26. Josh Jones, 5. Francis Meli; 6. Lance Hohaia, 7. Jonny Lomax; 8. Josh Perry, 9. James Roby, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 11. Tony Puletua, 15. Mark Flanagan, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 4. Sia Soliola, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 16. Paul Clough, 19. Andy Dixon.
1. Brett Hodgson; 2. Chris Riley, 4. Ryan Atkins, 19. Stefan Ratchford, 5. Joel Monaghan; 6. Lee Briers, 7. Richie Myler; 20. Chris Hill, 14. Micky Higham, 13. Ben Harrison, 12. Ben Westwood, 11. Trent Waterhouse, 15. Simon Grix.
Subs: 8. Adrian Morley, 9. Michael Monaghan, 16. Paul Wood, 17. Mike Cooper.