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Match reflection: Hard to understand Saints' capitulation against Giants
3:16pm Wednesday 6th February 2013 in Sport
HOW do you explain a debacle of that scale?
It was supposed to be the dawning of a new era at Langtree Park under Nathan Brown with off-season recruits Willie Manu and Jordan Turner making their full debuts.
Instead it turned into another opening day horror show that easily overtook the fog-bound Hull encounter of 2010 and even the 1994 defeat by Doncaster as a game that will talked about for all the wrong reasons in years to come.
This one was particularly hard to fathom given the apparent buoyancy in the camp following two off-season wins and the positive voices about the new coach.
But Saints never turned up.
That experienced Saints pack, stuffed with hard-nosed former NRL stars and current England internationals, were trampled into the ground by a more robust and physically committed Giants side.
The Giants’ big front row, led by veteran Stuart Fielden and Welsh skipper Craig Kopczak constantly won the collision, leaving defenders trailing in their wake on the deck.
Once the Giants momentum began to build, Saints worryingly lacked the wherewithal to arrest it, either physically or with a bit of craft.
Rugby league is a simple, if physically hard contact sport. Lose the fight in the middle and the rest of the job completely unravels.
And that was the case on Saturday, with the Huddersfield pack laying the perfect platform for Danny Brough to launch his precision kicks from the front foot.
Operating at the base of that commanding pack, Brough was at his imperious best with his tormenting boot leaving Saints with the monotonous and draining task of starting every set of six on their own line.
Huddersfield patiently cashed in on Saints’ mistakes and took their chances with a combination of flair and brute force.
Thankfully a Mark Flanagan try five minutes from time saved Saints from the indignity of being nilled at home for the first time since the Kangaroo tourists containing Messrs Meninga, Kenny, Boyd and Sterling whitewashed them in 1982.
To underline the magnitude of this defeat, this was time the Claret and Golds’ have won on St Helens soil since November 1978.
Giants cashed in on an early ambitious offload by Manu got to get themselves off to a flyer, from which it is fair to say Saints never recovered.
Crafty play from Luke Robinson, who swiftly switched into the right hand side to create an extra man, resulted in Leroy Cudjoe sending Jermaine McGilllvary cutting back inside through the despairing cover of Jonny Lomax and Manu.
After Jordan Turner was penalised for holding down Fielden, Brough’s beautifully weighted pass sent Brett Ferres streaming through the challenges of Lee Gaskell and Wellens from close range. Brough goaled both tries and then added a penalty.
In what was a rare Saints response Sia Soliola’s surge was supported by James Roby and Gaskell – but alas the young stand off lost the ball in contact and the chance went begging.
A set later Tony Puletua and Soliola were both held short in their first real tilt at the Giants line, but they were held out and Saints’ chance of a toe-hold was gone.
In contrast to Saints, Giants made yards with ease, winning the collision and marching down the field to begin the whole torturous process again.
It was not all brawn from the Giants, they showed no little skill in executing their next score with Brough’s offload off the deck, being collected by Lunt and flicked on by Grix to create an overlap which the fleet-footed Cudjoe polished off.
Brough’s boot, courtesy of a conversion and then a penalty made it 22-0 at the break.
As unlikely as it sounded, Saints needed to score first to make a game of it.
But when Luke George crossed in space on the left from Brough’s long, forward pass six minutes after the restart the remaining 34 minutes became more like an after school detention for the home fans who had turned up with such high hopes.
They didn’t need the bounce of the ball, but they got that too when Chan broke up the middle, hoofed the upfield to bounce awkwardly resulting in substitute Lance Hohaia palming it back to the grateful arms of Larne Patrick.
Shocking marking at the base of the scrum saw Shaun Lunt peel off from the loose forward position and brush off Jon Wilkin to score another.
Then Francis Meli’s knock-on allowed Cudjoe to thread his way through for another to make it 40-0.
But Flanagan kept running till the end and took a neat Lomax short ball five minutes from time to open Saints’ account, but it was too little too late.
Saints: Wellens; Makinson, Turner, Jones, Meli; Gaskell, Lomax; Perry, Roby, Laffranchi, Soliola, Wilkin, Manu. Subs: Hohaia, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Puletua, Flanagan.
Huddersfield: Grix; George, Cudjoe, Wardle, McGilvary; Brough, Robinson; Fielden, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Chan, O’Donnell. Subs: Crabtree, Faimu, Patrick, Cording Ref: R. Silverwood.