SAINTS produced arguably their best performance of the season so far by beating league leaders Castleford 26-22 in what is traditionally a tough, tired Easter Monday back-up match.
There were some fine individual performances, with Mark Percival shining in the centres, and Zeb Taia again impressing on that same left edge.
In the pack there were strong performance from the big men, with Alex Walmsley outstanding and Luke Douglas and Luke Thompson grafting hard.
We also saw a continuation of skipper Jon Wilkin's reversion to a strong-running right edge back rower and his work rate was top notch again.
Having had to do it tough, with 12 men, in Good Friday’s defeat by Wigan, Saints were always going to have to dig deep into their energy reserves.
And that job got tougher in an opening quarter which saw two ball spillages in their own half hand Castleford good field position to test Saints.
Although they initially repelled the Tigers attack, a piece of soft play when they made a hash of clearing a grubber kick to leave Greg Eden with a gift.
Another handling error gifted the visitors, seeking their first Super League win on St Helens soil, the position to kick a penalty on 22 minutes.
The scoreboard was looking grim – but Saints’ fortunes began to change from the restart, with a good chase off the kick off forcing an error with Zeb Taia picking up.
Moments later the ball was being worked right where youngster Matty Fleming – in for the injured Ryan Morgan ¬¬ - crossed.
Mark Percival arrowed over the difficult conversion and Saints were back in the game after a rocky opening quarter.
And they soon hit the front after man of the match Percival’s penetrating run had got Tigers bac-pedalling. Saints patiently pressed with Australian prop Luke Douglas powering through and then reaching over to plant the ball down.
The scoreboard was completely transformed when, after Taia and Dom Peyroux had forced a drop out, the subsequent pressure ended with the ball being threaded through for Percival to touch down.
Percival tagged on that score and a penalty, with Matty Smith short with a late drop goal leaving it at 20-8 at the break.
But Cas have too much quality and strike in this team and an approach that means they can score clusters of points.
Given Saints were low on juice from Friday, they were still facing a tough second 40.
And that got tougher when following another handling error, Cas cracked the Saints line when the classy number six Ben Roberts crossed.
The momentum was suddenly back with Cas after a bewildering passage of play, flicked passes, long balls and switch plays eventually seeing Eden fly in at the corner despite the despairing tackle from Adam Swift.
Crucially Gale missed the goal, but the Cas hordes massed behind the posts in the East Stand sensed a first competitive away win against Saints since 1990.
Saints had to dig deep and, after the turbulent times of recent weeks, had find something to hang in there to claim a win that gets their season pointing back in the right direction again.
That came again, fittingly, with the input of home debutant Regan Grace.
The 20-year-old Welshman who scored at Wigan in a wow of a senior debut did not get as much ball against Tigers.
But when his break, which left Cas clutching at jerseys, was stopped inches short and then won a pen a penalty, Saints had a chance to strike to arrest the visitors’ momentum.
And strike they did. After Kyle Amor and Percival were held up, the ball flashed left where in a blink of an eye it found itself in the hands of the Welsh flank flier.
He did the rest, with Percival slotted a big conversion from the touchline to make it a two-score lead with 11 minutes to play.
Saints hung on – only conceding another Roberts in the final minute.
Gale spurned the conversion attempt in a bid to get something from the restart, but the hooter sounded before he could he even get back to the centre spot.
Saints: Tommy Makinson; Adam Swift, Matty Fleming, Mark Percival, Regan Grace; Theo Fages, Matty Smith; Kyle Amor, Tommy Lee, Alex Walmsley, Zeb Taia, Jon Wilkin, Luke Thompson. Subs: Luke Douglas, Adam Walker, Dominique Peyroux, Morgan Knowles.
Tigers: Zak Hardaker; Greg Minikin, Jake Webster, Michael Shenton, Greg Eden; Ben Roberts, Luke Gale; Andy Lynch, Paul McShane, Junior Moors, Grant Millington, Mike McMeeken, Nathan Massey. Subs: Oliver Holmes, Adam Milner, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Matt Cook.