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Flaky opening 20 from Saints’ pack leaves them with too much to do
SAINTS were left to rue a physically soft opening quarter which – as gamely as they tried afterwards – left them with too steep a hurdle to climb.
Although they will draw some positives from the way the last hour panned out, not for the first time this season Saints’ big men failed to meet fire with fire from the kick off.
Wolves, no doubt stung by their recent defeat by Widnes and emboldened by big Ben Harrison in an abrasive back row, were in just the mood to stretch their unbeaten run at Langtree Park to three games and posted a 22 unanswered points.
It would be wrong to paper over the cracks with a good last hour, but the first quarter was shades of the opener against Huddersfield, Magic and Leeds away all over again.
With sudden death football on the horizon, Saints can no longer afford to be giving themselves a points handicap against elite sides with flaky opening displays.
Thankfully there is still a good spirit in the camp – built around a five-match winning streak – and that meant the game was not a complete washout.
In fact, having cut the deficit to six points with a fine Jonny Lomax try in the corner from a sublime Willie Manu offload just before the hour mark, Saints could have snatched something.
With a one-score margin, Saints had time and field position but could not come up with the crucial play to crack the Wolves line.
Ultimately the game was settled from a poor Stuart Howarth hoof upfield, with a subsequent penalty giving Lee Briers the platform for a drop goal to give Wolves a two-score lead with 14 minutes to play.
Saints had a chance to throw the game back into the melting pot with a penalty in front of the sticks, but instead opted to tap it– a play that came to nothing with a Lomax kick on tackle three.
That was Saints’ last chance to get anything from it – with Briers’ boot drilling the ball downfield to constantly make Saints tap it on the 20.
Wolves had the last word when Garreth Carvell got over the top of Lomax to score from a Mick Higham grubber.
There were some pleasing aspects – after coming off second best in the first half, Saints pack began to slowly but surely give as good as they got in the middle.
There were also some good individual displays, most notably from centre Jordan Turner, the much maligned Lance Hohaia at nine, and Paul Wellens produced some simple but effective plays in the halves.
Wolves opened with tries from Joel Monaghan and Rhys Evans.
Saints old boy Mick Higham picked Lomax’s pocket behind the line and then Trent Waterhouse touched down another fortuitously bouncing grubber to make it 22-0.
But on 29 minutes Hohaia, Wilkin and Wellens combined to send Turner over.
And five minutes before the break Sia Soliola, Lomax and Francis Meli combine to send Swift in to give Saints some hope going into the second half.