SAINTS produced a fine comeback to beat Leeds Rhinos 30-22 on their own patch.
Fantastic never say die defence – complemented with an attack that was opportunistic and deadly – set up their first victory in six.
The result was even more impressive considering Nathan Brown’s side were 16-0 down after an error strewn opening 20.
Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon and Rob Burrow all profited from penalties and great field position before Stuart Howarth inspired an unlikely fightback.
Firstly, he stepped off the mark and fired a great pass to Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook for his third of the season.
And moments later, as the half was coming to a close, he got a great ball off to Jon Wilkin who put the excellent Sia Soliola under the sticks.
Buoyed by their return, Saints twisted the screw in opening stages of the second half with both Anthony Laffranchi and Tommy Makinson picking up opportunistic scores.
Ryan Bailey then made it a four point game but stout D and Luke Thompson’s second in the Red V sealed the deal.
After a fortnight off, Nathan Brown had the option of recalling Jon Wilkin from suspension and the fit again Sia Soliola. He came into the second row with Willie Manu whilst Wilkin moved back into the halves with Nathan Ashe.
Paul Wellens returned to his accustomed full back role, allowing Tommy Makinson to shift to wing in place of the suspended Francis Meli.
Leeds gave a debut to Liam Sutcliffe and moved Kylie Leuluai to prop to cover the injured Jamie Peacock.
The Rhinos had the best of the opening stages as Saints twice coughed up possession in their own 20.
And it was from the second of those chances that the home side scored. Quick off the mark, the ball was moved right to Kallum Watkins and he duly made it 4-0.
Moments later, Joel Moon was crossing for Leeds’ second as they punished another penalty.
Saints were struggling to get good field position but did pen Leeds back in their own 20 with a couple of good kicks.
20 minutes in Saints won a couple of penalties but another unforced error saw the ball hit the deck.
And, ironically, Rob Burrow profited from two penalties to increase the lead further.
On 25 minutes, Mark Percival went close with a mazy run after Wellens’ break and seconds later a nice little scoot from Stuart Howarth saw Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook get under the sticks.
Makinson adding the conversion to make it a 10-point game.
And Howarth was again instrumental in Saints’ next score – getting away from dummy half to feed Wilkin who set Sia free.
Makinson with his second conversion of the night.
Saints went into the sheds just four points down and that was eradicated just two minutes into the second half as Willie Manu got a great ball off to Mark Percival and he made no mistake in feeding Tommy Makinson.
And on 48 minutes Saints were ahead. Nathan Ashe’s kick on the last looked a little laboured but it caused problems in the home defence.
Zak Hardaker then lost control trying to keep it out of the in-goal area and Anthony Laffranchi scooped it up.
Three minutes later Tommy Makinson took advantage of a wicked Paul Wellens’ kick to increase the lead further.
Bailey pulled a score back to make it 26-22 on 60 minutes and then Leeds forced a drop out with less than 14 minutes remaining. Saints weathered the storm but the pressure was intensifying.
Jon Wilkin’s kick and Makinson’s chase forced a drop out with seven minutes to go – and it was a massive play as within a couple of tackles Luke Thompson ploughed over for his second in the red v.
His reaction – and his teammates’ – said it all – as did the reaction behind the sticks.
Tries: Watkins, Moon, Burrow, Bailey
Goals: Sinfield (3 from 4)
Tries: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Makinson (2), Laffranchi, Thompson
Goals: Makinson (3 from 6)
REF: Ben Thaler
1. Zak Hardaker; 25. Joe Vickery, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Joel Moon, 5. Ryan Hall; 13. Kevin Sinfield, 6. Danny McGuire; 8. Kylie Leuluai, 7. Rob Burrow, 16. Ryan Bailey, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 15. Brett Delaney, 18. Chris Clarkson,
Subs: 17. Ian Kirke, 19. Mitch Achurch, 21. Richard Moore, 26. Liam Sutcliffe.
1. Paul Wellens; 2. Ade Gardner; 3. Jordan Turner, 30. Mark Percival, 21. Tommy Makinson; 23. Nathan Ashe, 12. Jon Wilkin; 8. Josh Perry, 36. Stuart Howarth, 33. Luke Thompson, 4. Sia Soliola, 13. Willie Manu, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Subs: 11. Tony Puletua, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 19. Josh Jones, 25. Alex Walmsley.