The Saints now hold the bragging rights thanks to an outstanding display to beat Wigan 30-18, writes Graham Henthorne for saintsrlfc.com
This was chalk and cheese to the insipid performance in the same fixture last year with the Saints pack led by Ethan Caine repeatedly knocking their opponents back forcing error upon error in the process.
The Saints opened the scoring in the third minute capitalising on a loose pass to touch. Two tackles from the scrum the ball found Lewis Dodd and his short ball put Lewis Baxter through the line. The second row neatly stepped inside the full back before touching down under the sticks.
Yet more ferocious tackling from Jamie Pye and his equally impressive front row partner Harry Brooks forced another handling error on the visitors 20. From the scrum the Saints pounded the line before a short pass from Keenan McDaid sent Pye crashing over.
The visitor’s appalling handling saw them spurn a try after breaking down the left before Evan Jones was held up over the line on the last tackle.
But they finally opened their account after winning the chase to a cross kick – the simple conversion missed.
On the half hour the Saints increased their lead with the mercurial Dodd again at the heart of things. It was his high kick spilled by the full back which gave the Saints an attacking scrum on the 10 metre line and he was there to take Jumah Sambou’s inside ball and step through the defensive line for the try.
The biggest plus from today’s performance was the defensive effort and this was shown in microcosm by Keenan McDaid on the next set. The visitors were battering at the Saints door but the diminutive hooker made three tackles in a row on their rampaging forwards to keep the line intact.
The second half started poorly with a knock-on on the second tackle and then the awarding of a contentious try when the ball looked for all the world to be six inches short of the line.
The visitors had learned the hard way in the first half that they couldn’t go through the Saints and so now were starting to try to go around but this came a cropper as Jumah Sambou strolled in unopposed having intercepted 40 metres out.
Lewis Dodd then proceeded to keep the Saints on the attack with precision last tackle grubbers which, combined with a good kick chase notably from Jack Stephenson, gave the Saints three repeat sets.
The pressure was relieved as the visitors were marched down field courtesy of two of their nine penalties (the Saints didn’t receive one) and the deficit reduced as the left winger scored on an overlap.
Yet another piece of luck saw the Saints lead cut to just one score. Callum Taylor was dropping back to run out a last tackle kick when he slipped in the in-goal and was beaten to the touch.
This made for a nervous last 11 minutes but the Saints were not to be beaten galvanising themselves for a big effort.
Jamie Duffy came on for a cameo five minute spell to relieve cramp victim Keenan McDaid but it was left to his brother Harvey to put the game to bed for the Saints.
With five minutes to go a good kick pinned the Saints in their own 10 metre line. But a combination of hard running and audacious offloads saw them make inroads into the visitor’s defensive line. On tackle four that man Dodd again broke through finding McDaid on his shoulder to go the last 40 metres under the posts.
Whilst Lewis Dodd was definitely the ringmaster he was ably supported by his half back partner Taylor Pemberton. However, neither of them could do their jobs without the platform laid for them by their dominant pack with Zak Lee, George Connolly and big Will Toone all joining in the party off the bench.
This was a performance of skill, tenacity and desire which left the coaching staff purring with delight. By no means flawless, if truth be known it was down to Saints errors that the visitors got so close, but it is always good to send our nearest and dearest back over the Lump with their tails between their legs.
1. Harvey McDaid; 2. Ryan Appleton, 3. Evan Jones, 4. Jumah Sambou, 5. Theo Robinson; 6. Taylor Pemberton, 7. Lewis Dodd; 8. Harry Brooks, 9. Keenan McDaid, 10. Jamie Pye, 11. Ben Betts, 12. Lewis Baxter, 13. Ethan Caine.
Subs: 14. Jamie Duffy, 15. Joe Spencer, 16. Jack Stephenson, 17. Will Toone, 18. George Connolly, 19. Zak Lee, 20. Callum Taylor.
1. Sam Burns; 2. Marcus Cropper, 3. Reece Storey, 4. Alex Sutton, 5. Aaron Pimblett; 6. Ben O’Keefe, 7. Kieron Wilkinson; 8. Lewis Bolton, 9. Bradley O’Neill, 10. Jack Bibby, 11. Kyle Stevenson, 12. Ellis Longstaff, 13. Umyla Hanley.
Subs: 14. Jonathan Openshaw, 15. Dean Beddall, 16. Joe Charnock, 17. Adam Lavin, 18. Austin Mossop, 19. Harry Rushton, 20. Jack Taylor.