JOB done! And this time it’s well and truly done as your Super Saints got over the final hurdle and as a result went through the whole season unbeaten, writes Graham Henthorne.
22 out of 22 is a feat that is likely never to be got near to never mind beaten and with this last victory came the little matter of a silver cup to parade in front of the thousands of faithful Sintelliners that cheered them on to glory.
This was not the Saints Academy at its vintage best, however, but for entertainment value you can’t argue with an extra time winner.
In true Saints fashion the Academy gave the visitors the lead scoring on an overlap on the left. This came after Ricky Bailey had made and then closed an overlap to Regan Grace on the Saints left minutes earlier.
The Saints regrouped and with Evan Bullen having come on to support Alex Eckley in providing the necessary go forward the Saints started to play.
A Danny Richardson grubber gained the Saints a repeat set and from the restart drives from Regan Grace and Bullen gave momentum. On the third play the ball Richardson swept the ball right to Bailey on the arc against a retreating defence and the fullbacks’ wide ball saw Dave Eccleston in space in the corner.
Richardson’s majestic conversion off the touchline, a pointer of things to come, saw the scores level.From the kick off the Saints, again bolstered by substitute Jordan Olmez powered down field and just when we all thought Captain Liam Cooper had bombed an easy walk in to Bailey by going himself and being dragged down short, Richardson came up with piece of magic.
On the last he took it to the line feigned a cross kick before putting in a divine grubber which sat up perfectly to give the hard working Ben Morris an easy touchdown.
The visitors were given offside from the kick off and from the penalty a great blindside move saw a gap open up only for the final pass from the normally reliable Aaron Smith to Eccleston ruled forward.
On the half hour it took wonderful defence from Jake Spedding, Brad Billsborough and Grace to hold the visitors up over the line but the Saints again powered downfield gaining a penalty for holding down which Richardson duly popped over.
An eight point lead at the break was a fair reflection and the talk in the sheds was of 40 minutes hard work left to finish off the job.
However, the nerves were given a hint of things to come as a 40/20 and a defensive mis-read allowed the visitors to score wide right.
For the next twenty minutes it was nip and tuck with the visitors constantly able to rely on the whistle to get them out of any trouble.
The stalemate was nearly broken with 15 to go as Billsborough’s show and go saw him through the line. With support on the inside he tried the tricky pass which went to ground when he maybe should’ve taken the tackle and gone again. It’s difficult to be too critical though as a score then would’ve blown the game open.
As it was we had to wait until 5 minutes from the end for the Saints to put one hand on the trophy.
A scrum to the Saints on half way saw first Grace and then Spedding make good metres down the left touchline and then Bullen take it onto the middle. Then a planned inside out move saw Bailey get the ball 20 out and he was never going to be beaten to the corner.
Again Richardson majestic kicking gave the Saints an unassailable eight point lead with four minutes left However, the Saints thought the big Sunday afternoon crowd needed some more entertaining and soon contrived to give two tries away the last literally as the hooter sounded.
Unlike the Saints, however, the visitors did not have a kicker who could handle the pressure cooker atmosphere and he was wide with the kick which would, cruelly, have denied the Saints their just desserts.
But all the momentum should have been with the visitors as the game went into golden point extra time.
But this is where all the hard hours with the coaching staff and with each other on the pitch come into their own building a team that doesn’t know when it’s beaten even if it’s trying to beat itself!
So it was a rejuvenated Saints that received possession at the restart. Five drives later they weren’t really close enough and Richardson saw his drop goal sail wide but which meant the visitors started on the 20 metre line.
The Saints muscled up in defence, however, giving the visitors an attempt from too far as well.
More than one in the crowd were starting to wonder how many of them would we see when one last monumental effort saw the Saints make significant metres downfield giving Richardson a 30 metre effort. Unfortunately it was charged down but in doing so it was picked up in an offside position giving Richardson a 30 metre penalty just to the left of the sticks to win it.
With all the pressure of the occasion and the situation the standoff calmly NAILED IT!
Two thousand Sintelliners went wild with delight and the whole of the squad mobbed the hero of the hour on the field.
Not the best performance of the year but in Finals you just have to get over the line to be grinning winners.
Richardson got the Man of the Match but he was pushed close by Grace who put the fear of God into the opposition every time he touched the ball.
But there were heroic efforts from all 17 today. Matty Costello coped well filling in for the cramping Bailey at the end. Mike Weldon, Alex Eckley and Josh Eaves worked tirelessly. Chris Follin made a cameo appearance at the end and Levy Nzoungou, in his last game in the red vee before jetting out to Australia, was better in his second stint.
Half of this team will now be moving onwards as they are too old. Half of the team are still young enough to go round again though.
And now we’ve got the Trophy none of them want to give it up and won’t without one hell of a fight.
The Final as a game suffered a little at the treatment in was given last year. Well it certainly didn’t this year as the Saints Club did the occasion proud.
The Saints players did themselves, their families, the Club and the Town proud in winning.
Tries: Eccleston, Morris, Bailey
Goals: Richardson (5 from 5)
Tries: Worthington (2), Mullen, Davies
Goals: Woods (2 from 4)
Colin Hutton Man of the Match: Danny Richardson
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, 10. Alex Eckley, 11. Liam Cooper, 12. Ben Morris, 13. Mike Weldon.
Subs: 14. Josh Eaves, 17. Chris Follin, 18. Jordan Olmez, 20. Evan Bullen.
1. Craig Mullen; 5. Tom Davies, 3. James Barran, 4. Liam Paisley, 2. James Worthington; 6. Olly Russell, 7. Josh Woods; 8. Ollie Partington, 9. Paddy Casey, 10. Caine Barnes, 11. Jack Wellsn, 12. Maccauley Davies, 13. Kyle Shelford.
Subs: 14. Sammy Adejumo, 15. Jake Moore, 16. Sammy Kibula, 21. Sam Brady.