Saints got the 2019 Super League season off to a bang with well-deserved 22-12 win over fierce rivals Wigan Warriors in freezing conditions at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
New NRL signings Lachlan Coote and Kevin Naiqama started at full-back and centre respectively with Joseph Paulo coming on from the bench.
It didn’t take long for Naiqama to get his name on the score sheet as he flew in on the right edge in just the second minute, Mark Percival adding the conversion.
It was 12-0 after 15 mins when Jonny Lomax touched down close to the sticks, after a brilliant break through the middle of midfield by Dom Peyroux.
Saints continued to put pressure on Wigan until they turned the tables and backed Saints up on their own line. It was the first example of what would be repeated and resolute goal-line defence from the Saints throughout the match.
Lachlan Coote read the game brilliantly in defence and was the man on the spot defending a number of probing short kicks from Wigan.
Tommy Makinson nearly opened up a wider advantage after he powered in at the corner, after a great break from Regan Grace, but he was left agonisingly short and the try was ruled out.
Wigan themselves were denied a try of their own minutes later when they barged over only to called for a forward pass.
However, they did register their first points after 28 minutes when Ben Flower crashed over from close-range, Hardaker converted to pull the score back to 12-6.
Coote again was the right man in the right place in defence as he came up with the ball after it bounced off the post pad from a Wigan grubber.
Despite some good play from Saints to again push Wigan back, they came up with an interception gift to Liam Marshall an 80m try after a mis-timed pass from Lachlan Coote, which meant the game was tied at half-time 12 apiece.
The second half started with more resolute defence from Saints and, on 50 mins, they managed to open up their advantage further with a beautifully worked try for Regan Grace after some lovely passing from Lomax and Percival on the left. Percival missed the goal to give Saints a 16-12 lead.
On 60 mins, Saints got the Totally Wicked crowd roaring with a huge defensive set that saw Wigan pinned in their own 20.
As the tension mounted and both teams had chances, it was time for the Saints Captain to deliver the killer blow with a short range try in the 74th minute to give Saints breathing room and, in the end, it was the finishing score of the match.
Tries: Naiqama, Lomax, Grace, Roby
Goals: Percival (3 from 4)
Tries: Flower, Marshall
Goals: Hardaker (2 from 2)
REF: Robert Hicks