Saints v Wigan Warriors
Twelve man Saints came from behind after taking a sizeable lead against our dearest derby rivals on Saturday, writes Graham Henthorne.
Made to play for the final half an hour without Liam Cooper after he was sent from the field for an uncharacteristic brain explosion, the Saints dug deep for a well-deserved 40-30 win.
The visitors took the lead after Ricky bailey failed to knock a speculative grubber dead leaving the ball in the in-goal area.
The Saints were under the pump and looking likely to concede again on ten minutes when Tommy Lee shot out from his own line to intercept the pass direct from the play the ball.
He took it 20 metres as did Matty Lees then the ball was spread right for make-shift centre Mike Weldon, on to cover for the injured Adam Swift after only six minutes, to further relieve the line. From the play ball Zach Docker-Clay grubbered the ball through for his Rovers team mate Graeme Horne to touch down.
The Saints forward pack were dominating their counterparts from over the Lump by this stage forcing error after error and when the ball was put down on half way the Saints turned on the style.
The ball was spread right with Bailey and Weldon both taking it to the line which created space for Jordan Gibbons. The winger stepped off his right foot finding space and when he found the full back he just shipped it out to the supporting Horne for his second try in the red vee.
The purple patch continued from the kick off as the third member of the Rovers trio Mitch Clarke and Jonah Cunningham drove deep into the visitors. From the play the ball Docker-Clay took it to the line before stepping off his right to go in untouched.
The second quarter was a tighter affair as the Saints coughed up too much possession to really put the visitors under any pressure and conceded a second try from a suspiciously forward looking pass.
The mood was positive at the break with the aim to get back to dominating the visitors pack and watching them disintegrate again.
The Saints took another big advantage from the generosity of the visitors when another knock on in their own half gave the Saints position and Docker-Clay showed his class stepping off his right foot to go through the line and then again to go around the static full back.
Matty Costello could have scored Saints fifth try had he pinned back his ears instead of stepping inside to be held up.
The melee on the line was where Cooper received his marching orders but the visitors were made to drop out from the original decision. Two great drives from Clarke and Lees and a quick play the ball gave Aaron Smith plenty of time to jump out of dummy half and beat the cover to touch down at the posts.
But a Saints knock on in our own half and a still disorganised side could have proved a turning point as the Saints let in three converted tries in a ten minute period to go behind for the first time.
It would have been easy to have hid behind the 12 men stat and capitulate at this point but emboldened by the large crowd the Saints dug deep and decided to take the game back to the visitors.
And in a fantastic last ten minutes came away with the win. Great defence forced the error and the Saints punished it ruthlessly.
With the forwards to the fore led by Matty Lees the Saints were pressurising the line. On the last Bailey grubbered through and Weldon won the chase to touch down and retake the lead.
The visitors were metres offside at the kick off and from the restart Clarke and Lees were at it again bulldozing their way through the defence. The ball was spread right from Docker-Clay to Bailey and to Weldon who took three defenders over with him.
The final act of redemption was left to another member of the Saints back line that had been described as “soft” by the visitors coaching staff prior to kick off.
Clarke, Costello and Bailey had walked the defence back towards their own line and on the last Docker-Clay showed another example of his undoubted talent as he stepped off his right to go through the line before stepping so much that he turned the full back around and left him clutching at his own posts as he offloaded to Weldon. The centre then sent out an overhead miss pass to find Jordan Gibbons unmarked for the touchdown.
This was a fabulous advert for Reserves rugby. Coach Talbot was full of praise for his players afterwards and especially the three Rovers players who, like all the others who have pulled on the red vee this season, gave the all for their team mates.
His only worry now is how to stop them when the Saints face them next Sunday as a curtain raiser to Rovers next home game!
Tries: Graeme Horne (10 & 15), Zach Docker-Clay (18 & 45), Aaron Smith (50), Mike Weldon (70 & 74), Jordan Gibbons (76).
Goals: Jordan Gibbons 4 from 8.
Tries: Harry Smith 2 (3 & 31), Jack Wells (55), Josh Woods (58), Liam Forsyth (66).
Goals: Harry Smith 5 from 5.
Half Time: 16-12
Full Time: 40-30
1. Ricky Bailey; 5. Jordan Gibbons, 4. Matty Costello, 3. Jake Spedding, 2. Adam Swift; 6. Zach Docker-Clay, 7. Rob Fairclough; 8. Mitch Clarke, 9. Tommy Lee, 10. Matty Lees, 11. Graeme Horne, 12. Jack Ashworth, 13. Jonah Cunningham.
Subs: 14. Brad Billsborough, 15. Liam Cooper, 16. Mike Weldon, 19. Aaron Smith.
1. Gabriel Fell; 2. Liam Marshall, 3. Liam Forsyth, 4. James Worthington, 5. Dominic Manfredi; 6. Harry Smith, 7. Josh Woods; 8. Callum Field, 9. Joshua Ganson, 10. Joseph Bretherton, 11. Nicholas Gregson, 12. Jack Wells, 13. Kyle Shelford.
Subs: 15. Patrick Casey, 16. Oliver Partington, 19. Samuel Kibula, 21. Liam Paisley.