Prior to kick off looking at the respective league positions and recent match history of the two sides you’d have been forgiven for being extremely worried for the Saints with the Tigers challenging their first team for turnaround team of the year, writes Graham Henthorne.
However, thankfully none of the Saints 17 were worried by the reputation of the visitors and for the first time in a long time they played as a team for each other.
As the U19s found out last year when you’ve been riding high and having things your own way for such a long time sometimes you’ve never been tested and can find it hard to cope.
That’s what the Saints did to the Tigers as they opened up a ten point lead with two well taken Sam Royle tries.
The first came with the Saints first possession of the game. Great drives from stand out props Evan Bullen and Matty Lees led to a penalty and on the last a fabulous grubber from Rob Fairclough was chased by Royle who touched it down just before the whitewash.
His second came after another charge from Bullen put the Saints on the front foot. Fairclough took control putting Royle through a gap to score.
The Tigers hit back almost straight away as danger man Jacob Trueman dummied his way over on the left.
The Saints missed a try down the left flank from a scrum in the Tigers half when Matty Costello uncharacteristically was sleeping as Kev Brown made his gap for him.
The Tigers drew back closer with their second unconverted try seconds after the sin-binning of Cam Brown for holding down after a Tigers break caught the Saints short.
When the Saints got a penalty of their own for holding down in front of the Tigers sticks the opportunity to waste time and take the points was too much and Brad Billsborough extended the lead with his second goal of the half.
The Saints were looking forward to taking a well-deserved lead in to the break when the Tigers scored their third try despite a suspicion of a forward pass.
However, if you’re a connoisseur of these missives, apart from having some issues of your own you will also know that this team has been in these positions before at the interval and been found wanting in the second half.
But there was something different about this team tonight and they started the half as they had finished the first with determination and lots of effort putting the pressure onto the Tigers who couldn’t handle the Saints forward power.
The turning point came with the introduction on 48 minutes of Paul Nash who quickened up all aspects of the play the ball and also scored the try which broke the visitors.
A half break from Ben Sims was taken on by Matty Lees who was stopped inches short. But a repeat set was gleaned and as Callum Hazzard was stopped short Nash was left at the play the ball.
He through the biggest dummy you’ve ever seen which was bought not only by the whole of the Tigers defence but also seemingly by Nash himself as he almost butchered the try by ignoring the hole he’d created and stepping back into a defender. He managed to bounce off and fall over the line.
Another penalty for a head high tackle was converted by Billsborough to open up a two score lead and when the Saints scored next the possibility of an upset became a real prospect.
On the hour it was another fine kick from Billsborough to the right corner combined with pressure from Tom Nisbett which forced the Tigers to kick to touch.
Three tackles from the resultant scrum saw Hazzard again held short. This time the ball was spread wide right were Cameron Brown showed great pace and poise to go around the cover and touch down within inches of the whitewash.
The nerves were set jangling again as the missed conversion and a good try from the visitors drew them to within six points with a quarter of an hour left.
But cometh the hour cometh them man as a brace of tries from Matty Lees finished the Tigers off.
Both showed exactly what he is about, strong determined running giving defenders no chance of stopping him. But both came on the back of quick ball from Nash and drives from Bullen and Hazzard, exactly what had worked all day.
This was a fabulously gutsy team performance from a side that for once believed in themselves and wasn’t prepared to be beaten.
In addition to those already mentioned there were good performances from Sam Royle, and Nash’s compatriots off the bench Joe Sharratt, Ben Sims and Chris Kellett.
Tries: Sam Royle (1 & 19), Paul Nash (52), Cameron Brown (61), Matty Lees (71 & 73).
Goals: Brad Billsborough 5 from 6.
Tries: Jacob Trueman (23), Robbie Storey (28), Luis Johnson (38), Jack Render (65).
Goals: Jake Sweeting 1 from 4.
Half Time: 12-12
Full Time: 34-18
1. Kevin Brown; 5. Tom Nisbett, 3. Cameron Brown, 4. Matty Costello (C), 2. Luke Ward; 6. Ryan Horne, 7. Rob Fairclough; 8. Evan Bullen, 9. Brad Billsborough, 21. Matty Lees, 11. Sam Royle, 12. Mike Weldon, 13. Callum Hazzard.
Subs: 14. Paul Nash, 15. Chris Kellett, 16. Joe Sharratt, 17. Ben Sims.
1. Callum Turner; 30. Declan Sheehan, 3. Robbie Storey, 4. Pat Diskin, 2. Jack Render; 6. Jake Sweeting, 7. Jacob Trueman; 8. Rory Dixon (C), 9. Luke Million, 10. Jamel Goodall, 11. Joe Summers, 12. Luis Johnson, 13. Joe Fella.
Subs: 14. Shay North, 15. Jack Ray, 16. Harvey Kear, 17. Jonty Glendinning.