Tommy's terrific touchdown puts the icing on the cake after a modern classic

Tommy Makinson's winner

Mose Masoe

Jonny Lomax celebrates with the team

Sia Soliola makes a tackle

Paul Wellens creates a try

Sia Soliola celebrates

First published in Sport
Last updated

WHEN a legend like Keiron Cunningham hails it as one of the best wins he can recall you know it must be something special. And it was.

A Saints side missing nine of the players that trounced Warrington at the start of the season was given little chance, on paper, against the league's only other unbeaten side Leeds.

With Jordan Turner, Mark Percival, Gary Wheeler, Luke Walsh, Willie Manu, Alex Walmsley joined by the suspended Kyle Amor, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Jon Wilkin on the sidelines the odds appeared heavily stacked against them.

But with a liberal smattering of of young guns in the pack, emboldened by the regular shifts of heavyweight Mose Masoe, who started for the first time, and the experienced Anthony Laffranchi Saints produced a real backs to the wall effort in the middle.

In the halves they mixed it up with Lance Hohaia and skipper Paul Wellens linking with the outstanding Jonny Lomax, who defended as a full back but attacked like a seven.

The kicking game was split between those three and the outstanding James Roby, who once again showed his full range of talents with a whopping 57 tackles.

And they were roared from the off by the 18th man around three sides of the stadium ensuring a special night on the match was complemented by a glorious soundtrack.

Defensively Saints were solid, soaking up so much pressure on their own line especially after Kevin Sinfield had turned the screw by forcing repeat sets.

The Saints line held firm apart from one first half breach polished off by Danny McGuire for the game's opener.

Saints' riposte was a simple well worked play with James Roby picking out Anthony Walker, who cruised over with such ease he later described it as "falling over the line". Tommy Makinson's goal made it 6-6.

That is how it stayed at the break with the home crowd rising from their seats to give the team a standing ovation.

Saints already had a moral victory in the bag, but this team, bursting with belief, wanted something more than that.

In the most absorbing 40 minutes Langtree Park has witnessed to date Saints bounced back after a Sinfield penalty, but were denied a penalty try and what would have been a sin-binning when Ryan Hall hauled Josh Jones off the ball to prevent a try.

Bizarrely the referee referred the video ref back to a knock on that he clearly already shouted "backward" to and Leeds were awarded a handover.

In previous seasons Saints would have reacted differently to that sort of decision, but they did not let that unsettle them.

They roared back with a top drawer try fashioned by skipper Wellens, who strode through with a tackle busting run on the left, committing defenders before timing his pass to perfection for the runaway Makinson to cross.

The current crowd favourite finished off at the corner flag with his now trademark one-handed style to hand the momentum back to Saints.

But when Saints were penalised again, with Sinfield obliging to level, all of a sudden we were in drop goal territory.

It was a similar scenario to last year's play-off heartbreaker which they lost by a point.

And Sinfield had the first stab at breaking the deadlock with a drop attempt which went wide with five minutes to play.

But with the crowd roaring, back Saints came - and on this occasion it did not matter that the team had no drop goal specialists on board.

On half way, with Leeds anticipating a deep kick, World Cup winner Lance Hohaia produced a real rabbit out of the hat.

In arguably his best game in the red vee, the diminutive Kiwi chipped over for the supporting Lomax who in turn kicked across into the space in front of Makinson.

Cool as a cucumber, Makinson hovered over the ball before picking up and grounding. The roof came off!

It was a fitting finale to the best game Langtree Park has witnessed to date - a win that keeps Saints top of the pile, two points clear, and, despite the absentees sends them into Sunday's cup tie bouncing higher than a giddy kid on a space-hopper.

Saints: Lomax; Makinson, Jones, Dawson, Swift; Hohaia, Wellens; Masoe, Roby, Richards, Flanagan, Soliola, Walker. Subs: Laffranchi, Greenwood, Thompson, Savelio.
Leeds: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Ward, Hall; McGuire, Sinfield; Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Jones- Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney. Subs: Jones-Bishop, Kirke, Clarkson, Singleton.

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