Had everything gone to plan for Rovers last season then this would have been a regular fixture for the Reserves, writes Graham Henthorne.
As it was they had to disband their Reserves side which is why we’ve been able to call on so many this season in times of need.
So what was always going to be a hard game was given extra spice with no less than six of the Robins having lined up for the Saints this season and determined to do well for their parent side.
But it was one of their first team squad Thomas Minns who opened the scoring sprinting 90 metres after picking up a knock on missed by the referee from a Saints attack.
The Saints hit back as Matty Costello showed a clean pair of heels to the defensive line sprinting around them to the corner. This after an attempted 40/20 by Danny Richardson was helped into touch by the Rovers full back.
The Saints took the lead just before the half hour with a surprisingly easy run to the line from dummy half by Aaron Smith. The Saints had been put into an attacking position with a great run out of defence from Jake Spedding and a mazy run across the line from Kev Brown.
But the last ten minutes belonged to Rovers as the Saints respect for possession hit an all-time low with wild passes being thrown in our own 20 metre area.
They scored two tries from Joe Cator and Adam Rooks to go in six points to the good.
Having said that the Saints completion rate was poor earlier, they started the second half completing only two from seven sets the last being an uncontrolled hack on from Danny Richardson from Jack Ashworth’s poor pass off the floor.
As a result Rovers were growing in confidence and increased their lead when hooker Tom Jubb ran in from dummy half unopposed.
From the restart Rovers knocked on in their own 20. From the scrum on the left quick hands from left to right from Richardson found Ricky Bailey who ignored the great dummy run from Mike Weldon finding his winger and Kev Brown acrobatically did the rest.
The messages from the coaching staff finally seemed to percolate through to the players and the Saints started to turn the screw.
Led by the magnificent Matty Lees they pounded the tiring Rovers pack and it was Lees who scored next.
A great exit set from the Saints own 20 saw Chris Follin taking it on 20 metres and four further drives one from Matty Lees saw the big prop end up taking Richardson’s pass and dragging three over with him.
Richardson’s conversion put the Saints within two points with 10 minutes left.
Rovers were visibly wilting in the bright sun and the Saints again rolled 80 metres up field after a clearance kick with Bailey, Spedding and Costello each making big metres.
On the last Richardson grubbered the ball to the posts, it hit the pads, ricocheted around amongst the five players in attendance only for Jonah Cunningham to pounce for the decisive try.
There was still time for the Saints to try to throw it away by missing the short kick-off but they managed to survive with Aaron Smith pulling off a miraculous tackle on Graeme Horne under the sticks when a try seemed on the cards.
Coaches Talbot and Wellens were at pains to point out at the conclusion what a difference finishing with nine out of nine completed sets makes and how much easier it would be if they could do it all the time.
This was a fantastic advertisement for the whole Reserves concept. Richardson showed glimpses of his talent and Mike Weldon played long and hard but the stand out competitor for the Saints, playing all but seven minutes, was Matty Lees.
Tries: Tom Minns (3), Joe Cator (34), Adam Rooks (38), Tom Jubb (59).
Goals: Zach Docker-Clay 3 from 4.
Tries: Matty Costello (11), Aaron Smith (27), Kev Brown (60), Matty Lees (70), Jonah Cunningham (75).
Goals: Danny Richardson 3 from 5.
Half Time: 16-10
Full Time: 22-26
2. Ben Cockayne; 23. Niall Sidney, 3. Tom Minns, 40. Jack Logan, 5. Elliott Wallis; 25. Harry Hutchinson, 18. Zach Docker-Clay; 17. Mitch Clarke, 9. Tom Jubb, 34. Brad Clavering, 11. Owen Harrison, 14. Graeme Horne, 20. Liam Thompson.
Subs: 15. Harry Bardle, 16. Harrison Morrow, 19. Tom Burke, 22. Adam Rooks, 24. Ben Butler, 27. Will Oakes, 30. Joe Cator.
1. Ricky Bailey; 5. Kev Brown, 4. Matty Costello, 3. Jake Spedding, 2. Cameron Brown; 6. Danny Richardson, 7. Rob Fairclough; 19. Matty Lees, 9. Tommy Lee, 24. Jack Ashworth, 11. Liam Cooper, 12. Mike Weldon, 13. Jonah Cunningham.
Subs: 14. Brad Billsborough, 15. Alex Eckley, 16. Callum Hazard, 17. Jorge Lewtas, 18. Aaron Smith, 21. Josh Eaves, 23. Chris Follin.