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Saints can have positive outlook despite defeat
9:30am Thursday 26th September 2013 in Sport
SAINTS’ season may have ended with last Friday’s heartbreaking one-point play-off knockout at Headingley, but following an often turbulent first year in charge at Langtree Park Nathan Brown has good reasons to be positive.
Although on paper, a fifth place Super League finish and an opening round Challenge Cup exit may show a team taking a backward step, that bald statistic does not factor in any of the injury adversity faced by the team this year.
Nor does it say anything about the crop of youngsters that have been blooded – through necessity – during the course of the campaign, or the way Brown has begun to reshape the team from the back three.
Having weighed up the weaknesses in the front row and half back – and addressed them with the recruitment of big men Kyle Amor, Mose Masoe and Richard Beaumont to the pack and kingpin Luke Walsh in the halves Brown can have real confidence in his squad for next term.
Brown said: “It has been a tough season and we effectively began to rebuild the squad during the season.
“We have made some big changes. For a long time at this club Francis Meli was on the wing with Ade Gardner and Paul Wellens at full back.
“We now have two young wingers and Jonny Lomax back there. That has added speed.
“Jon Wilkin has played half which will change next year.
“The culture of the club is terrific and its effort and commitment is sensational.
"The youth system has provided the path to make the rebuild quite quick too.
“We haven't achieved what we would have liked, but we have achieved in moving forward."
In some ways the Leeds defeat was reminiscent of the Regal Trophy Final loss to Wigan in early 1996.
Although that loss was hard to take, after a period in the trophy wilderness, the evident blossoming of talent in the ranks to be complemented by new recruits gave off a positive look to the future.
And that is what we have now.
Next year a potentially more dominant pack will allow a fully fit James Roby to play on the front foot.
And behind them Saints’ first out-and-out string-pulling scrum half since Sean Long departed is sure to make a massive difference.
With a pacy back three in Tommy Makinson, Adam Swift and Jonny Lomax now embedded in the team, Saints now have much more strike on the edges – especially now that powerhouse Tongan Willie Manu has found his niche in the team.
Saints can lick their wounds from this week – but given their makeshift half back combination and depleted front row they have probably over-achieved again this season.
But that is not a view that will be said out loud by a team that finished the season with real belief.
Brown expressed his disappointment when he said: “When you lose and your season is over it is very disappointing.
“We can't come back next week.
“I am proud of our guys, and Leeds' too, the effort was super. I think you saw what proper semi final football is all about."
Brown explained the decision not to go for goal from the half way line after Kevin Sinfield had put the restart kick into touch.
"To kick a goal from half way... well that is a big kick," Brown said.
"Our number one kicker Jonny Lomax isn't kicking because of a hamstring injury so we took the chance to put it into touch.
“When it's there you have a good chance of scoring or setting up for a field goal.
“Miss the kick and you might not even get the ball back. We took the safest option with what we are working with at the moment.”
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