Saints got their semi-final charge off to a perfect start as they beat Castleford 26-12.
Justin Holbrook’s men handed the Tigers their first defeat of the year on their own midden – and rose to third in the Betfred Super League in the process.
James Roby bagged a brace in an excellent performance, suitably aided by the outstanding Luke Thompson and, in the second half, the returning Matty Smith.
If they say defence wins Championships too then the display also sent a message to the rest of the league that Saints are well in the hunt.
Tenacious and desperate at times it halted the Tigers’ marauding attack and laid the platform for some scintillating tries.
That attitude was more than evident in the first 10 minutes when they stopped Cas scoring on back-to-back-to-back sets.
Zeb Taia then broke the deadlock with a try of real quality.
The potent left hand side had already looked lively in the opening stages and it was a fine pass from Theo Fages that set the big second rower off – dancing through tackles and stepping the full back on his way.
Mark Percival then knocked over a penalty to make it 8-0 and Saints were unlucky not to have increased the lead further.
Kyle Amor touched down a ball that ricocheted but it was called back for a knock on that not many in the ground saw.
Cas then had one chalked off by the video official for offside before Saints defended their way out of trouble on numerous occasions.
Ryan Morgan’s last gasp tackle on the line typifying the approach.
That continued in the second half until Cas gained good field position on the back of penalties and astute kicking from Paul McShane.
Adam Milner burrowed over from close range and Luke Gale, who was quiet throughout, tagged on the conversion to make it game on.
But Saints hit back with a moment of real class.
The ever improving Morgan Knowles made a wonderful break in midfield and drew his man to get Thompson away.
Fages was next up, but a simple pass from Smith found a darting James Roby who flew in under the sticks.
More defence followed – Percival stopping a certain Jy Hitchcox try with a wonder tackle on 60 minutes – before Saints scored again.
Thompson was again at the hub; clearing his lines and winning a penalty before some superb offloads from Taia and Jon Wilkin saw Smith produce a slide rule kick for Lomax to win the race.
Joel Monaghan pulled one back with an acrobatic finish in the final stages but anything other than a Saints’ win would have been a travesty.
So when Roby darted over once again in the final minute it was celebration time.
Even though the video ref took an eon to give it!
Justin Holbrook praised his side’s attitude in defence after they beat Castleford 26-12 on Thursday night.
“We knew it was always going to be a tough game,” he said. “No matter how much homework you do Cas are still a dangerous side to face. The boys needed to continuously make the right decisions in defence and they did that, and we came away with the win.
“Our attitude in defence has been great the whole time I have been here. The difference is Cas ask the most questions and you have to be on it for 80 minutes. We did that.
“I think we are getting better each week and we need to. It was a great win but we are still chasing the teams above us. We will continue that on but I am happy with the performance tonight.”
Holbrook also praised the workrate of two try man of the match James Roby.
“He isn’t just tough, he creates things, is fit and is a great guy who loves playing rugby league,” he continued. “You can see that in his play – they are the type of players you need when you have a tough assignment like tonight. You rely on them and he was fantastic.”
Danny Richardson left the field in the first half with concussion but should be available for next week’s game against Hull.
Tries: Milner, Monaghan
Goals: Gale (2 from 2)
Tries: Taia, Roby (2), Lomax,
Goals: Percival (5 from 5)
REF: R Hicks
1. Zak Hardaker; 21. Joel Monaghan, 2. Greg Minikin, 4. Michael Shenton, 25. Jy Hitchcox; 16. Ben Roberts, 7. Luke Gale; 10. Grant Millington, 9. Paul McShane, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 34. Alex Foster, 12. Mike McMeeken, 14. Nathan Massey.
Subs: 11. Oliver Holmes, 13. Adam Milner, 18. Matt Cook, 20. Larne Patrick.
1. Jonny Lomax; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 28. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 24. Danny Richardson; 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 36. Zeb Taia, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 12. Jon Wilkin.
Subs: 7. Matty Smith, 8. Alex Walmsley, 10. Kyle Amor, 20. Morgan Knowles.