SHORT-HANDED Saints produced a brave and battling performance as they went down 29-18 at Wigan on Good Friday.
Down to 12-man after Kyle Amor was harshly sent off for a high tackle in the 15th minute, they fought for everything and were well in the game for more than an hour.
Time after time they repelled the Warriors’ attacks – and scored some scintillating tries too.
Regan Grace was outstanding on debut but this was a real squad effort.
The only thing missing was the two points with hopes of bringing them home dented by a poor call.
The incident saw Matty Smith’s high kick collected by Liam Marshall before he was hit by Amor’s effort.
Ben Thaler had no doubt and ordered the prop off the field but replays showed the initial contact was low and with the ball first.
Saints had made a good fist of it before that crucial and ultimately incorrect decision, weathering three sets and utilising Grace’s speed.
Down to 12 they rallied the troops and lead after 18 minutes through a Mark Percival penalty.
Wigan replied through Joe Burgess and pummelled Saints’ line for most of the half.
But, such was the visitor’s bravery, they only had Morgan Escare’s penalty to add to their lead.
Within a couple of minutes of the second half, Saints were level.
Grace made a sensational break from within his own half and set Tommy Makinson free down the middle.
From there, after good work in the far corner from Adam Swift, Theo Fages was held up short.
It was only delaying the inevitable though as the outstanding Morgan Knowles saw his opportunity and plunged over.
Percival added the extras but within seconds Liam Marshall had put Wigan ahead once more.
Escare then tagged on a drop goal on 55 minutes but Saints hit right back.
And it was sensational.
After forcing a error in the middle of the field it was swept left for Zeb Taia and Percival to combine to put Grace acrobatically over in the corner.
Saints were buoyant, but after all their defence, and the lack of numbers, gaps began to show.
Liam Farrell replied almost immediately, before Marshall and Burgess each claimed their second with fine pieces of skill.
But it was left for Makinson to hand Saints a consolation that they more than deserved.
Offloads from all over the field saw the ball into Zeb Taia’s hands and he put in his full back.
The fans’ reaction at the end of the game spoke volumes as to a man, woman and child they clapped off the Saints at the end of an emotional week.
But they were left wondering what could have been if 13 had stayed on the field.
Tries: Burgess (2), Marshall (2), Farrell
Goals: Escare (4 from 6)
Tries: Knowles, Grace, Makinson
Goals: Percival (3 from 4)
REF: Ben Thaler
22. Morgan Escare; 36. Thomas Davies, 3. Anthony Gelling, 5. Joe Burgess, 35. Liam Marshall; 6. George Williams, 7. Thomas Leuluai; 8. Frank Paul Nuuausala, 16. Sam Powell, 10. Ben Flower, 11. Joel Tomkins, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean O’Loughlin.
Subs: 9. Michael Mcilorum, 17. Taulima Tautai, 19. Ryan Sutton, 20. Willie Isa.
2. Tommy Makinson; 5. Adam Swift, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 28. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith; 10. Kyle Amor, 17. Tommy Lee, 14. Luke Douglas, 36. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Subs: 8. Alex Walmsley, 16. Luke Thompson, 19. Greg Richards, 20. Morgan Knowles.