SAINTS produced a performance of real guile to beat Catalan Dragons 26-6 in Perpignan.
Tommy Makinson and Paul Wellens grabbed a double as Nathan Brown’s side shrugged off the first half loss of Gareth O’Brien to go fifth in Super League.
They led 10-6 at half time thanks to tries from Francis Meli, Makinson and some ruthless scrambling defence.
But they rued the loss of O’Brien who was taken out for the second game in a row as his side began to get on top.
In the second half, Makinson leapt high to take Jon Wilkin’s kick before Wellens took advantage of Antoni Maria’s sinbinning.
Two more players saw yellow late on after a little dust up but there was still time for the veteran to grab his second and make it safe.
Saints made just two changes from the side that beat Wigan Warriors 12 days hence.
Anthony Walker returned from injury to take the spot of Joe Greenwood whilst Greg Richards got his second game in the Red V.
For Catalan, Remi Casty was banned whilst Leon Pryce partnered with Thomas Bosc in the halves.
The Dragons got an early taste of pressure when the visitors gave away two penalties on the bounce. But a poor pass went to ground – an act that was repeated throughout a tough, hot and humid first half.
Both sides were strong on D in those opening sets but a high ball caused panic in the Catalan defence and Saints earned a penalty when Steve Menzies was adjudged to be offside.
‘Beaver’ made amends by intercepting a loose pass on the very next set and then a high ball gave the home side a repeat six right in prime territory.
Leon Pryce was held up short but another penalty gave his side more hope.
Saints withstood the pressure once again and clearing his lines Jon Wilkin broke free and found Gareth O’Brien.
Francis Meli was held up and seconds later and then the visitors made the pressure count. The ball went wide through hands and Meli took a great pass on the angle from Jonny Lomax.
O’Brien with the extras.
Lomax had one wiped off by the video referee but moments later Makinson was over in the corner for his tenth of the season.
This time the ball was moved right at pace through Howarth and O’Brien for Jordan Turner to find his wing man.
Sadly though, O’Brien was taken out late by Zeb Taia as the ball went and had to be stretchered off.
It was a big loss for Saints – and Catalan duly profited.
On 26 minutes, Pryce got the ball away to Morgan Escarē and he crossed in the corner to bring the Dragons right back into it.
Bosc with the conversion.
Wilkin went close – the post denying a certain try – and then Catalan knocked on with their line at their mercy.
But Saints gave away three penalties in a row as the half counted down and Steve Menzies ploughed over.
Thankfully, the video referee adjudged he was held up over the line to give Saints a welcome break.
There were still three tackles remaining but Lomax scooped up Duport’s kick to quell the danger.
It was a quality piece of defence from Saints – and very much needed as the half time hooter sounded.
Saints put themselves under pressure from the off as they knocked-on on their first set. Once again the defence was strong and they turned that hard work into points.
Willie Manu broke down the field and fed Wellens – on his 400th Super League appearance – who slipped in Wilkin.
And a couple of tackles later Makinson plucked a superb high Wilkin ball out of the air for his second.
Saints were on top and received a further boost when Antoni Maria was sinbinned on 53 minutes.
After a Catalan knock on, Adam Swift kicked forward on the ‘free play’ and was taken out as he went for the ball.
It saved a certain try but put the home side right on the back foot.
Saints needed to play simple stuff and a high Wilkin ball gave them another set of six.
Tony Puletua then went close after a barnstorming Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook run but Jordan Turner slipped just in front of the line.
The try was coming though and when another penalty handed them great field position Paul Wellens caught the Dragons on the angle to grab his 217th try in the Red V.
Turner with the extras.
It was surely game over at that point but referee Ben Thaler made it even more interesting as he sinbinned Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who was great throughout, and Maria once ahain.
They reacted after Mickael Simon and Alex Walmsley had a dust-up in midfield.
There was nothing in it really – the resultant 10-mintuers defending their teammates.
It got better for Saints too as after Pryce blew a certain score Wellens ghosted in for his second of the night – converted by Jordan Turner.
Both sides threw the ball around in the final stages as they looked to finish strong but Saints were always on top and deservedly took the spoils.
This was a win built on strong foundations – great defence and ball control at vital times.
Brown’s side are now up to fifth and with Sia Soliola and James Roby due back towards the end of the season, they are only going to get stronger.
Goals: Bosc (1 from 1)
Tries: Meli, Makinson (2), Wellens (2)
Goals: O’Brien (1 from 1), Turner (2 from 3), Makinson (0 from 1)
REF: Ben Thaler
28. Morgan Escarē, 26. Frederic Vaccari, 11. Steve Menzies, 25. Vincent Duport, 18. Daryl Millard; 3. Leon Pryce, 6. Thomas Bosc; 20. Mickael Simon, 9. Ian Henderson, 23. Lopini Paea, 4. Zeb Taia, 31 Elliott Whitehead, 13. Gregory Mounis.
Subs: 15. Antoni Maria, 16. Eloi Pelissier, 17. Kevin Larroyer, 22. Jamel Fakir.
7. Jonny Lomax; 21. Tom Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 5. Francis Meli, 26. Adam Swift; 12. Jon Wilkin, 37. Gareth O’Brien; 11. Tony Puletua, 36. Stuart Howarth, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 19. Josh Jones, 13. Willie Manu, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Subs: 1. Paul Wellens, 25. Alex Walmsley, 27. Anthony Walker, 38. Greg Richards.