Saints v Wigan Warriors
Just as Friday’s game was a clash of the top two, so was this. And with our visitors resting the majority of their players last week the much younger Saints had to contend with playing a side containing 14 top age group players compared to the Saints’ six, writes Graham Henthorne.
But those are the sorts of stats that this team is consistently disregarding on a weekly basis, turning in heroic performances and striding on at the top of the table.
This was no different as they won 24-10.
Again mirroring the first team, the U19s bombed a few chances, the first coming the way of Josh Simm in the sixth minute. He put in a fantastic chase to a Jack Welsby grubber beating the full back to the ball only to knock-on over the line.
A good defensive effort forced an error on half way and from the scrum Elliott Jenkins found Tom Nisbett on the blind side who put Cam Brown away. Unfortunately, as he was caught his inside ball was put down with the line begging.
On 17 minutes Chris Follin put the Saints third chance down as he had the ball stripped under the posts.
As ever when you don’t take your chances it comes back to bite you and that’s what happened as the visitors went down the other end to score in the right corner.
The sides were going hammer and tongue at each set and just before the break the Saints spilled their fourth chance as interpassing between Jack Welsby and Matty Foster saw the stand-off knock on.
The game turned on the last tackle of the first set of the second period. Poor tackling allowed a 70-metre break and with the visitors camped on the Saints try line Chris Kellett saved the day getting underneath the ball over the line.
From that point the Saints never looked back.
Drives from the Joe Sharratt and the workhorse that is Sam Royle got the Saints out of the corner and on the front foot. From the play the ball Jack Welsby’s show and go put him over in the corner.
The Saints were playing uphill and against the wind in the second half and as such found themselves pinned in their own half for much of the half defending repeat set after repeat set.
But defend they did, each one working for each other knowing that if they could hang on then their class would tell.
On the hour that’s exactly what happened. A penalty and hard driving from the pack put the Saints in the visitor’s 10 metre area on the last. A poor play the ball put Jenkins under pressure and he just managed to twist out of a head high tackle, flicking the ball out in the same movement to the tireless 80 minute man Chris Follin to go over for a deserved try.
Josh Simm’s second conversion put the Saints into a six-point lead.
The visitors narrowed the gap to two points six minutes later going in wide right with a suspiciously level pass after Tom Nisbett had pulled off a try saving tackle moments before.
The conversion was missed and the lead was maintained.
With nine minutes to go the Saints extended their lead as Jack Welsby intercepted to go fully 90 metres with only Josh Simm for company. He touched down 10 metres in from the left corner instead of strolling under the posts to make the conversion easier, but Callum Hazzard wasn’t fazed pushing the lead, crucially, out to eight.
The Saints put the game to bed with fibe minutes to go as Callum Hazzard collected a ricochet from a Welsby kick to score to the left of the posts.
There was just time for Hazzard to bomb another chance failing to take Welsby’s pass after another great break through the line to the full back.
But what a magnificent team performance this was.
The defensive effort from 1 to 17 to keep themselves in the game was out of this world. But to do it uphill and against the wind made the win all the sweeter.
With ball in hand it’s hard to look beyond the mercurial talent of Jack Welsby. But that would do a dis-service to the Royle’s, Follin’s, Simm’s, Croston’s etc. of the world whose tireless yardage carries out of their own 10 metre area gave the team the space to play.
Six out of six is possibly an unexpected position to be in but it’s a thoroughly deserved one for a young team with bags of heart and talent.
Tries: Jack Welsby (43 & 71), Chris Follin (60), Callum Hazzard (75).
Goals: Josh Simm 2 from 2, Callum Hazzard 2 from 2.
Tries: Joe Brown (21), Sam Grant (66).
Goals: Harry Smith 1 from 2.
Half Time: 0-6
Full Time: 24-10
1. Tom Nisbett; 5. John Hutchings, 3. Cameron Brown, 4. Josh Simm, 2. Sean Croston; 6. Jack Welsby, 7. Elliott Jenkins; 8. Alex Eckley, 9. Jake Wingfield, 10. Callum Hazzard, 11. Matty Foster, 12. Sam Royle, 13. Chris Follin.
Subs: 14. Brandon O’Neill, 15. Joe Sharratt, 16. Chris Kellett, 17. Jorge Lewtas.
1. Joe Brown; 2. Sam Grant, 3. James Barran, 4. Jake Sculthorpe, 5. James Worthington; 6. Callum Green, 7. Harry Smith; 8. Olly Partington, 9. Aiden Roden, 10. Samuel Kibula, 11. James McDonnell, 12. Morgan Smithies, 13. Joseph Shorrocks.
Subs: 14. Amir Bouroh, 15. Joseph Havard, 16. Ben Kilner, 17. Liam Byrne.