IT would be so easy to read the scoreline for this match – Wigan winning 38-20 – and imagine that you know the story. “Saints overpowered in loss!”
In fact you would be far from the truth, writes Graham Henthorne.
The Saints competed for long times in this match and but for a few decisional errors could quite easily have triumphed by the same margin.
Twice in the opening five minutes the Saints had chances to score. The most gilt-edged chance came in the first set as exciting full back Jamie Little made a break from the home 40 metre line only to be pulled down inches short.
Unfortunately, as both chances came to nought the home side made easy yards around the ruck, the Saints Achilles heel this evening, and scored on their first attack.
This was compounded as from the kick off they repeated the feat to take a ten point lead in a couple of minutes.
The visitors again scored twice in quick succession to open out a 22 point lead after half an hour but in between the Saints had been denied three times.
Firstly, Ryan Horne ran the ball on the last finding Captain Sean Croston who took it on to the full back before feeding his winger Jake Arnold. Arnold took on the cover on his way to the corner only to lose possession in the tackle. Had he passed inside to the supporting Jack Welsby then a try may have been forthcoming.
Arnold was then unlucky twice in succession. Firstly Horne’s grubber on the last was just too long, then minutes later after a repeat set Arnold reached Horne’s chip and acrobatically touched down only to be ruled offside.
But galvanised by the tackle of the game from Josh Hadland which rattled the teeth of everyone in the crowd let alone the fullback who he hit, the Saints opened their account with the last play of the half.
The increasingly influential Welsby set Luke Ward free down the left and he expertly drifted inside committing the fullback before feeding his winger Tom Nisbett to go in at the corner.
Welsby’s touchline conversion again gave reason for optimism in Coach Ian Lomax’s half time talk.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned inability to tackle around the ruck allowed two more tries to be scored, the first after only three tackles of the half.
But this young Saints side containing ten lower age group players refused to give in and Jake Wingfield’s grubber and chase at the line gave the Saints some hope.
Arnold again proved to be the luckiest Saints player as he had another try, this time a fantastic stretch out into the right corner, again ruled out for a foot in touch.
Matthew Foster’s big hit forced the error which led to Croston being held up over the line on the last as the Saints piled on the pressure.
This finally tolled as Welsby dummied his way over from Croston’s pass after great drives from Foster and Joe Sharratt.
When Horne scored with seven minutes remaining to bring the Saints within two scores the coaching staff were lamenting missed conversions which would have brought it to one score.
But the final nail in the coffin was dealt, probably fittingly, down the middle as the home side scored their seventh try.
Whilst no-one could fault the saints’ effort, the difference was the clinical way the home side took most of the chances offered to them when the Saints didn’t.
The Saints have played worse than this and won this season so all is not lost. Maybe a slightly smarter performance next time up in their final match of the season at Warrington will see them regain that winning feeling.
Tries: Reece Hamlet (6), Oscar Hansen (9), Adam Ford (26, 29 & 41), Joe Shorrocks (36), Morgan Smithies (66).
Goals: Harry Smith (5 from 7).
Tries: Tom Nisbet (35), Jake Wingfield (45), Jack Welsby (59), Ryan Horne (63).
Goals: Jack Welsby (2 from 3), Josh Waterworth (0 from 1).
Half Time: 6-22
Full Time: 20-38
1. Callum Greene; 4. Adam Ford, 25. Ben Holcroft, 2. Max Roberts, 5. Reece Hamlet; 6. Ryan Forshaw, 23. Harry Smith; 8. Nathan Wilde, 22. Jacob Corcoran, 11. Oscar Hansen, 10. John Hutchings, 18. James O’Donnell, 13. Joe Shorrocks.
Subs: 7. Ethan Havard, 9. Morgan Smithies, 12. Mike Fairclough, 14. Amir Burrough, 17. Joe Turton, 20. Oliver Waite, 21. Ike Eastwood.
1. Jamie Little; 2. Tom Nisbet, 3. Luke Ward, 4. Sean Croston (C), 5. Jake Arnold; 6. Ryan Horne, 7. Jack Welsby; 8. Christian Kellett, 9. Paul Nash, 10. Matthew Ashcroft, 11. Ben Sims, 12. Joe Sharratt, 13. Matthew Foster.
Subs: 14. Jake Wingfield, 15. Kye Siyani, 17. Brandon Scully, 18. Josh Waterworth, 22. Josh Hadland, 26. Jack Roughley.