A Regan Grace hat-trick was enough to edge out Huddersfield Giants in a hard-fought 23-18 victory which sent Saints through to the semi finals of the Betfred Challenge Cup.
Tommy Makinson was forced off with an injury just three minutes into the game, before the Giants capitalised on a penalty against an over-eager defensive Saints line, as Aidan Sezer kicked a a grubber through and Michael Lawrence went over. Sezer added the extras to give Huddersfield an early 6-0 lead in the first six minutes.
Regan Grace got his eighth of the season in the 17th minute after a great pick up from a loose ball after Theo Fages had threaded a grubber kick through to the flying Welshman. Lachlan Coote was unable to convert, meaning the Giants led 6-4 half way through the first half.
Saints thought they had taken the lead on 29 minutes after Jonny Lomax touched down, but James Child said the ball had been grounded by a Giants player.
Saints did take the lead in the 33rd minute though after a great cut-out pass from Lomax who found Mark Percival and he twisted and turned through a number of Giants defenders to go over. Coote added the extras this time, giving Saints a 10-6 lead.
On the stroke of half time, Huddersfield got their second of the game after a diving effort from Darnell McIntosh in the left corner. Sezer kicked the extras from the touchline to give Giants a 12-10 lead at half time.
Coote brought Saints level with a penalty six minutes into the second half, after Kristian Woolf’s men started the early stages of the second half strongly.
Saints got themselves back in front with a great play on the last, as Coote threw a long ball in search of Grace, who stepped inside and forced his way over brilliantly. Coote added the extras to give Saints an 18-12 lead after 54 minutes.
Minutes later Coote kicked a clever reverse kick across the face of the sticks which was attacked by Theo Fages, but Sezer got back to kick the ball dead.
Saints continued to throw everything at the Giants and Fages extended our lead by kicking a drop goal in the 62nd minute, making it 19-12.
Two minutes later, Coote thought he’d got himself a try, but James Child penalised Percival for a knock on when trying to offload to his supporting full back.
Against the run of play, Huddersfield pulled a try back with 12 minutes left to play. A high kick by Sezer was dropped by Kevin Naiqama who looked like he had been taken out in the air and the ball was played out to McIntosh who went over for his second. Sezer converted again from the touchline, narrowing Saints’ lead to one point.
But Saints confirmed their place in the Challenge Cup semi final five minutes from time as Grace bagged his hat-trick and 10th of the season.
The men in the Red Vee were awarded a second set of six, before the ball was worked out wide and Coote found Grace with a cut-out pass and the Welsh wizard dived in the corner to secure the win. Coote missed his conversion, but Saints were through after a hard-earnt 23-18 victory.
Saints 13: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Joel Thompson, Sione Mata’utia, Joe Batchelor.
Interchanges: Kyle Amor, Agnatius Paasi, Jack Welsby, Aaron Smith.
Tries: Grace (17, 53, 75), Percival (33)
Conversions: Coote (2)
Penalties: Coote (46)
Drop goals: Fages (62)
Huddersfield 13: Lee Gaskell, Jermaine McGillvary, Chris McQueen, Ricky Leutele, Darnell McIntosh, Jack Cogger, Aidan Sezer, Luke Yates, James Cunningham, Michael Lawrence, Ken Edwards, Josh Jones, Joe Greenwood.
Interchanges: Matty English, Adam O’Brien, Sam Wood, Owen Trout.
Tries: Lawrence (5), McIntosh (39, 68)
Conversions: Sezer (3)
Half time: 10-12
Full time: 23-18
Referee: James Child