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Mark Percival injects some pace and pizzazz into Saints attack
MARK Percival lit up an otherwise gloomy evening for Saints followers with a perfect debut in the red vee.
The 18-year-old Widnesian, who comes from a very strong rugby league family, had powerful England backrower-cum-centre Carl Ablett in his pocket for most of the game.
But it was his dazzling breaks, that ability to swerve and beat a man – rather than try to run through him – and then race away, that brought the crowd to its feet.
Alas his two late breaks that yielded tries for Francis Meli came too late in the piece to make a difference – but they did give hope that a different brand of rugby could be on its way.
Saints have lacked real pace in the outside backs since Jamie Lyon and Darren Albert left in the mid noughties.
It is clearly an issue coach Nathan Brown is looking to address in his recruitment and selection.
He said: “One of the reasons we brought Jordan Turner to the club was that he has good pace – and it also what Jonny Lomax takes to full back.
“Percy brings some pace to the table – and that is what you need in the outside back area.”
However, he was keen not to build up too much expectation on the young shoulders of the teenage centre.
Brown added: “He had a good first up game but certainly needs to keep his feet on the ground because it is going to get harder before it gets easier.
“He comes from a good family and is very close to them and that always helps. He is a kid that is obviously confident in what he brings to the table without being over-confident.
“The key for all the young guys is watch your videos and look at the things you do well, look at the things that are not so good and look how you can get better.
“It is easy for a kid to do what Percy did last Friday and then think ‘I have made it I am doing great’ and take their eye off the ball and it can turn ugly pretty quickly.
“But Percy does not strike me as the type of kid that would do that.
“He is only young and we don’t want him to play 30 games this year but hopefully he will get a fair share of games this year and play consistently well in those and that would be a good achievement for a kid of 18.
“One of the bonuses of having injuries has been all the young kids getting a chance to play –and if they keep getting better then it gives your squad a little bit depth and puts pressure on players to play well.
“With our squad if you lose four blokes, straight away you go to youth. Warrington have a bit more experience in their squad if they lose four or five.
“Having so many kids out there at once has positives and negatives. The pluses are that they are getting better and performed well against a tough Leeds team.
“It is good to get some of the experienced blokes back."