THERE was a large measure of déjà vu on show at Langtree as the Saints produced a first half performance practically identical to that dished up at the Halliwell Jones last Saturday, writes Graham Henthorne.
Eighteen points up in the first quarter and cruising then the wheels fell off and the match develops into just the sort of scrappy encounter that no-one likes.
But they held their nerve to win 38-22 and record their seventh win in a row.
The Saints opened their account taking advantage of a Vikings knock down in their own 10 when Liam Cooper gave an indication of the sort of strong running he would be dealing out all night by beating two defenders on his way over.
Olly Davies celebrated his call-up to the first team squad by beating the cover to the left corner. And when Jake Spedding dummied his way through down the right, passed inside only to see the ball knocked back by the covering defender but straight into the grateful hands of Ricky Bailey the Saints were flying.
But as at Warrington six days earlier the initiative was handed to the opposition and they took it with open arms. Two tries later and the Vikings tails were up and it was the Saints who were praying for the interval.
However, on the stroke of half time the ball was spread to the left hand side and Calvin Wellington found himself in space. The long striding centre easily outpaced the cover to the corner and Lewis Fairhurst’s fourth conversion from as many attempts gave the Saints a bit of breathing space.
In the first half the Saints had gone 13 from 13 completions but they opened the second with two from five again giving every encouragement to the visitors.
Again two tries later, thankfully the second unconverted, and the Saints were really hanging on to the slenderest of leads.
But this side’s nothing if not resilient and for fifteen minutes they scrambled and defended with vigour, repelled everything the Viking threw at them then killed them off in dramatic fashion.
A Matty Lees charged down kick led to a handover on half way. Three tackles later and Aaron Smith showed why he is valued so highly as he spotted half a gap from dummy half and shot through it. Josh Eaves took it on and quick hands from the play the ball saw David Eccleston over in the corner.
The fans in the ground were then treated to a sign of things to come as a last tackle bomb was superbly fielded by Regan Grace on his own 10. He scooted inside before spotting the gap in the defensive line, shooting between two converging defenders and outpacing the cover over the final 50 metres to the posts finally getting the chance to show off his talents.
Jake Spedding gratefully accepted a spilled bomb to fall over the line for the Saints last try giving the score a somewhat inflated look.
There was a welcome return from injury for Phil Atherton off the bench but the Saints generally looked a little jaded with the pack unable to exert its usual dominance down the middle.
Tries: Ricky Bailey, David Eccleston, Calvin Wellington, Jake Spedding, Regan Grace, Olly Davies, Liam Cooper.
Goals: Lewis Fairhurst 5.
Tries: Ryan Ince, Connor Davies, Will Weir, Jack Houghton.
Goals: Ed Chamberlain 3.
Half Time: 24-12
Full Time: 38-22
1. Ricky Bailey; 2. David Eccleston, 3. Jake Spedding, 4. Calvin Wellington, 5. Regan Grace; 6. Danny Richardson, 7. Lewis Fairhurst; 8. Ross McCauley, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Joe Ryan, 11. Olly Davies, 12. Liam Cooper, 13. Morgan Knowles.
Subs: 14. Josh Eaves, 15. Phil Atherton, 16. Lewis Hatton, 17. Matty Lees.
1. Ed Chamberlain; 5. Nathan Holbrook, 3. Joe Lyons, 4. Dan McGoldrick, 2. Ryan Ince; 6. Connor Davies, 7. Theo Holt; 8. Ted Chapelhow, 9. Jack Reynolds, 10. Will Weir, 11. Jack Houghton, 12. Matt Whitley, 13. Brad Walker.
Subs: 14. Jack Bond, 15. Connor Cutts, 16. Sian Jones, 17. Louis Glover.