FEISTY, full on and sometimes ferocious… James Roby’s Testimonial had it all and whilst Wigan Warriors won 28-16, there was plenty to enjoy if you’re a Saints fan.
The home side were on the front foot for most of the match with Luke Walsh looking all the scrum half the club has been crying out for.
The forward line of Kyle Amor and Alex Walmsley led with strength and power all night and the defence was pretty stingy at times too.
And, Saints will continue to improve and providing the side continues to gel, there is much to be excited about.
As for the game…a friendly? Only on paper perhaps and both sides ploughed into each other from the off!
There were 25 penalties and a sin-binning in the 80 minutes…
Saints led 12-6 at half time after they soaked up the Warriors pressure.
Adam Swift scooped up the ball to go 60 yards after a Wigan mistake whilst Walsh’s towering bomb caused enough problems for James Roby to score.
But the defence was just as keen too – denying the Warriors on several occasions.
Wigan fired ahead early in the second half but Swift’s second ensured a cracking end to the match.
And Saints had chances too, and the possession, but just couldn’t force their way over the line.
Gil Dudson and Joe Burgess scoring late on.
Whilst the talk of the game was James Roby and the number 9s decade at the club, most fans would have been pleased to see Walsh’s name on the teamsheet as well as Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Adam Swift and Sia Soliola.
Wigan also lined up with a strong side with Dan Sarginson and Tony Clubb both getting starts.
James Roby received a guard of honour from his teammates – and a rousing round of applause from all four stands at Langtree Park – before the sides ripped into each other.
Saints showed good hands and made good yardage on their first set before Walsh pinned Wigan back into their own corner.
Both sides then exchanged sets before Saints made the breakthrough.
Wigan tried to get the ball out of their own half and such was the force of the home side’s defence, Adam Swift scored the first try.
Matty Bowen lost the ball on contact and the winger scooped it up and went 60 yards.
Walsh with the conversion.
Jonny Lomax stopped a certain try seconds later as the Warriors pushed the pass from a penalty before the home side almost profited again.
This time Mark Percival’s pass to Swift was just a little strong.
On 20 minutes, Wigan forced a drop out and then won a penalty right on Saints line.
And the pressure told with Liam Farrell darting through on the angle to pull the Warriors back into it.
Saints almost immediately hit back; Percival breaking on the left hand side and kicking through to force a knock on from Matty Bowen.
But the chance was lost as they failed to organise their attacking line.
Alex Walmsley was sinbinned with seven to go – more as a result of Saints persistent interference in Phil Bentham’s eyes than anything the big man did.
But cometh the hour, cometh the team. With a man down Walsh sent a massive high ball up, Burgess slipped under pressure and Roby mopped up.
Walsh making it 12-6 at the break.
Compared to the ferocity of the opening first half stages, the second was timid until more penalties handed Wigan field position.
And Joe Burgess made no mistake as the ball was sent right.
Smith levelling it from the touchline.
Matters got worse on Wigan’s next possession – a simple chip over going through hands for Blake Green to get the go ahead try.
Swift replied immediately to bring Saints back into it before the home side won a penalty as all players got involved in a melee.
Saints then had a lot of possession and field position but couldn’t make it pay.
And they were disrupted too when Walsh took a knock to the head forcing Brown to shuffle his side.
The chances continued to come though and both Percival and Hohaia would want their time again as the ball got close to the line.
And those failures cost them dear as Burgess went over in the corner to seal the win.
Gil Dudson scoring at the death.
Tries: Swift (2), Roby,
Goals: Walsh (2 from 3)
Tries: Farrell, Burgess (2), Green, Dudsn
Goals: Smith (3 from 3), Hampshire (1 from 2)
REF: P Bentham
1. Jonny Lomax; 5. Adam Swift, 22. Mark Percival, 4. Josh Jones, 26. Matty Dawson; 3. Jordan Turner, 7. Luke Walsh; 16. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Willie Manu, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Subs: 6. Lance Hohaia, 11. Sia Soliola, 15. Mark Flanagan, 17. Paul Wellens, 18. Alex Walmsley, 24. Gary Wheeler, 27. Greg Richards, 30. Carl Forster.
1. Matty Bowen; 32. Joe Burgess, 3. Darrell Goulding, 23. Dan Sarginson, 4. Iain Thornley; 6. Blake Green, 7. Matty Smith; 8. Scott Taylor, 19. Sam Powell, 10. Ben Flower, 12. Liam Farrell, 24. Tony Clubb, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: 14. Jack Hughes, 15. Logan Tomkins. 16. Gil Dudson, 17. Dom Crosby, 22. Eddy Pettybourne, 25. John Bateman, 26. Ryan Hampshire, 27. George Williams, 28. Jordan James, 31. Dom Manfredi.