JOB Done! Well half of it anyway as the Saints booked themselves a home Grand Final on Sunday week, courtesy of a 46-6 win over Widnes, writes Graham Henthorne.
Always nervy affairs semi-finals and this was no different with both sets containing players well known to each other in both towns.
In fact it was the visitors who started the better and it took a fabulous last ditch tackle from Levy Nzounogu and Aaron Smith to hold the loose forward up over the line.
But that was virtually as good as it got for the Vikings as the Saints pack turned the screw with some trademark relentless defence which sapped their resolve for the next 35 minutes.
Dave Eccleston, who had a superb first half was first on the scoresheet strolling into the corner after quick hands and good attacking play along the line had created the overlap for him.
Aaron Smith then went close as he almost managed to haul half the Vikings pack over the line with.
An error on the last of the visitors next exit set gave the Saints great field position. Two drives later and Danny Richardson found himself just where he wanted to be, running at a retreating defensive line. The stand-off’s arcing run took him through the line where he approached the fullback but waited for the supporting Ricky Bailey to zoom up alongside. A simple pass and Bailey scooted the last 20 metres to the line.
The visitors could see the writing on the wall at this stage but it became twice as big as Bailey increased the lead on the half hour scoring his second.
The Vikings’ discipline was costing them dear and from the latest penalty tap restart Josh Eaves jumped down the blindside on half way. He fed Ben Morris who took it on 20 metres before again giving the beleaguered fullback no chance with a measured pass to Bailey storming up; the fullbacks pace allowing him to squeeze through two covering players.
The game turned on a foot in touch three minutes into the second period. Regan Grace and Jake Spedding found themselves going for the same centre who managed to get the ball out to his winger but thankfully for the Saints he just stepped in touch.
Three tackles later and the ball found its way back to Spedding who made up for the earlier indiscretion by breaking the line before feeding it inside to Morris for a stroll in.
From the kick off the pack continued to roll through their opposite numbers but on the last Liam Cooper made a half break down the right and flicked the ball out to Richardson. He committed the retreating line feeding Matty Costello who turned on the afterburners to beat the cover to the corner.
The Vikings scored a consolation after the Saints worst back to back attacking and defensive sets but normal service was resumed as Costello scored his second.
A speculative grubber from Eccleston knocked on by the Vikings and a penalty for having the ball thrown at him gave the Saints the ball on the Vikings line. From the tap Richardson again fed Costello to go in at the corner.
Two tries in the final ten minutes saw the Saints rub salt into the wound.
A Widnes knock on in their own half saw Regan Grace score his almost customary try picking up the loose ball and jinking his way past six or seven from 30 metres out.
Then a Costello half break down the left gave his centre partner Spedding a walk in for the Saints eighth and last try.
It’s hard to single individuals out of a performance like that as all played their part in a great team effort.
As I said at the beginning semi-finals are always nervy affairs as no-one remembers who loses them. At least if you get to the Final you get a medal.
But don’t you worry Saints fans, the 17 players who pull on the red vee and run out next Sunday at 14:00 are not going to be satisfied with just getting there. Whether they play our nearest and dearest or the Rhinos from across the Pennines they are only going to be satisfied with going through the season unbeaten and in the process picking up the trophy their season’s efforts deserve.
Tries: Dave Eccleston (8), Ricky Bailey (21 & 31), Ben Morris (44), Matty Costello (47 & 59), Regan Grace (70), Jake Spedding (76).
Goals: Danny Richardson 7/8.
Tries: Owen Farnworth (55).
Goals: Brad Walker 1/1.
Half Time: 18-0
Full Time: 46-6
1. Ricky Bailey; 2. Dave Eccleston, 4. Matty Costello, 3. Jake Spedding, 5. Regan Grace; 6. Danny Richardson, 7. Brad Billsborough; 8. Levy Nzoungou, 9. Aaron Smith, 17. Alex Eckley, 11. Liam Cooper, 12. Ben Morris, 13. Mike Weldon.
Subs: 10. Jordan Olmez, 14. Josh Eaves, 15. Evan Bullen, 16. Chris Follin.
1. Oliver Ashall; 2. Owen Buckley, 3. Keenan Brand, 4. Lloyd Roby, 5. Sam Freeman; 6. Joe Lyons, 7. Josh Houghton; 8. Jack Armstrong, 9. Danny Walker, 10. Owen Farnworth, 11. Jack Houghton, 12. Liam Walsh, 13. Brad Walker.
Subs: 14. Chris Wilson, 15. James Rutledge, 16. Pat McCarroll, 17. Connor Cutts.