SAINTS got their playoff campaign off to a winning start with a nervy but ultimately comfortable 36-22 victory against a Hull side whose challenged faded as their injuries mounted.
The visitors opened their account after only three minutes taking advantage of a lack of communication in the home defence and a surprising lack of ability to take the high ball.
This malaise plagued the Saints throughout the first half continually putting them on the back foot.
But the Saints did manage to take the lead with two tries in quick succession. The first came courtesy of the immense Connor Dwyer. The big loose forward burst onto a pass 10 metres out and took the defenders over the line with him.
Lewis Galbraith gave the Saints the lead on the next set finishing a fine attacking move. Dom Speakman made the initial break taking the ball to the full back before passing inside to the supporting Dave Hewitt. The scrum half was being caught from behind but didn’t panic, instead he stepped to the right and gave a great long ball out to Galbraith steaming up on his outside to go the final 20 metres.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the visitors came back to level proceedings scoring to the left of the posts.
Hull were getting the better of the penalty count and again this aided in bringing them away from their line, into the Saints half and putting the Saints under attack. The Saints were again caught out down the right hand side as quick play the balls gave the centre time to spin out of a tackle to score.
The Saints came back into it as the time drew on to the interval. First Greg Wilde found himself in touch at the corner, but on the stroke of the break Chris Webster stretched out at the posts to score. Prior to this Ben Parry had made a great break again supported by Hewitt which had resulted in the sin-binning of the FC scrum half for holding down.
Poor play from the Saints in the opening 10 minutes of the second period meant no chance to exploit the numerical advantage, and only scrambling defence from Parry, Galbraith and Wilde kept the line intact.
Gradually though the Saints began to wear the visitors down and the gaps began to appear. Lewis Charnock’s grubber rebounded straight into his hands for an easy finish after both Jack Ashworth and Speakman had been held up short.
Galbraith turned defence into attack superbly well as the Saints went 90 metres in two tackles for the fifth try. The winger cleaned up a last tackle grubber before sprinting 40 metres diagonally across field. He cut inside before feeding his fellow winger Parry who was stopped inches short. From the play the ball quick hands saw Greg Wilde over in the right corner to put the Saints two scores in front.
The visitors continued their offloading policy and it paid dividends catching the Saints out and bringing them back within six points with 20 minutes remaining.
The Saints were again in debt to Galbraith for starting the move for their sixth and final try. He again picked up a loose ball this time sprinting 30 metres down the right wing. He passed inside to Wilde, the play was spread to the left only for Parry to be stopped 10 metres short. A quick play the ball kept the visitors on the back foot allowing Greg Richards to gain reward for a solid display with the four pointer.
A penalty on the final whistle from Charnock put the finishing touch to the win.
Shorn of James Tilley, Richards and Dwyer led the line well, ably supported by Webster, Adam Hesketh, and Joe Ryan. But the plaudits this week must go to wingers Galbraith and Parry, whose strong running, was a threat from all over the field continually turning defence into attack.
Tries: Lewis Galbraith, Connor Dwyer, Greg Wilde, Greg Richards, Lewis Charnock, Chris Webster.
Goals: Lewis Charnock 6.
Tries: Alex Starling, Richard Wilkinson, Drew Ward, Jack Humphries.
Goals: Jordan Abdul.
Half Time: 16-16
Full Time: 36-22
20. Adam Saunders; 2. Lewis Galbraith, 3. Greg Wilde, 4. Jack Ashworth, 5. Ben Parry; 6. Lewis Charnock, 7. Dave Hewitt; 8. Greg Richards, 9. Dom Speakman, 21. Adam Hesketh, 11. Olly Davies, 12. Alex Clare, 13. Connor Dwyer.
Subs: 10. Chris Webster, 14. Tom Roughley, 15. Tom Calland, 19. Joe Ryan.
1. Josh Nicklin; 2. Tom Stark, 3. Alex Starling, 4. Sol Bevis, 5. Ash Leaming; 6. Jordan Abdul, 7. Richard Wilkinson; 10. Ryan Wilson, 9. Drew Ward, 8. Zach Braham, 11. Jansin Turgut, 12. Jack Downs, 13. Jack Humphries.
Subs: 14. James Cunningham, 15. Ryan Smith, 16. Brad Fash, 17. Josh Wood.