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Saints leave fans with a smile on their faces at Langtree Park
FLYING wing Adam Swift grabbed a hat-trick as Saints coasted through their play-off eliminator largely due to a scintillating opening 40 minutes of free-flowing football.
Despite falling behind to an early Liam Salter score, the game was such a refreshing contrast to the encounter between the two sides played out at a rain-lashed Langtree Park.
On that soggy June evening more than a few of the home faithful trudged out wishing the season to be over after seeing Hull KR come out on top for the third time this year.
But now the fans have something to cling to, a strong belief that the men in the red vee can defy all the odds and win the competition from fifth.
The west stand put that faith pretty loud loudly into song as slowly but surely Saints’ ‘new’ ground feels like home.
The faith is built on the confident manner in which the team – with a settled 1,6,7 and 9 and some real potency on the flanks – have hit their straps when it matters.
Rightly or wrongly, the only beauty of this play-off system is that it is an entirely new competition, which completely renders as irrelevant those horrible mid season months when injuries completely derailed the year.
Saints now know exactly what they need to do and are tackling that task with some confidence.
Although Swift’s running and his uncanny knack of being able to find his way over the whitewash grabbed the headlines, there were other stand-out performers.
James Roby was immense, once again showing the full bag of tricks in attack and 33 tackles and no misses in defence.
He used the short side cunningly to pick the Rovers defence apart but he received good support in executing that with Jonny Lomax linking up well to send Francis Meli in for the opener, Swift getting on the end of a Roby dab for the second and the Sia Soliola powering over after the England hooker’s break from deep.
The last try told its own story – with any one of six Saints players around the ball after the half way line was crossed.
With the pack winning their battle, Saints’ halves Jon Wilkin and Lance Hohaia worked well to control the game and Lomax chimed into the line with great effect, speed and creativity.
Wilkin worked his socks off – and he also kicked smartly and pushed the ball around the park well in a fine all round game.
His highlight came when he calmly plucked the ball from an Hull KR aerial attack, having the positional awareness to realise that he could unleash the speed machine outside him with a subtle round the corner offload.
Although Swift’s dashing and swerving 50 metre run was eventually halted, it put Saints back on the attack. Another Swift break and offload followed, this one collected by Tony Puletua, who bamboozled the Rovers defence with his one-hand carry before releasing the scoring pass to Anthony Laffranchi.
Alas, the video ref’s x-ray spex spotted a knock on that was impossible to see with the naked eye.
Saints made absolutely sure when a line break from Hohaia in his own 30 metre zone was backed up by speedster Jordan Turner.
And to complete a full house of backline scorers Tommy Makinson’s used his trademark acrobatic skills and telescopic arm to ground another one in the tight corner.
With Saints on the front foot, Lomax had the freedom for an off-the-cuff chip and gather before sending Swift scampering in for his second.
Turner compounded Rovers’ misery by booting five from six to send Saints in 34-4 at the break.
Although the second half was not as thrilling – with the job done – there were nevertheless some good passages of football.
Hohaia backed up a great Roby break to start the second half ball rolling.
And then Swift zipped in at the corner after Lomax had injected himself into the line.
After they had an earlier effort chalked off for obstruction, Rovers had the last word when Michael Dobson kicked into space for Craig Hall to score.
But it was a mere consolation, and home fans were able to give the departing Francis Meli and Tony Puletua a resounding send-off from the last home game.
With the feelgood factor building, one down, three to go no longer sounds an impossible dream.
Saints: Lomax; Makinson, Turner, Meli, Swift; Wilkin, Hohaia; Puletua, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Jones. Subs: Wellens, Laffranchi, Clough, Walmsley.
Hull KR: Hall; Hodgson, Welham, Salter, Brown; Withers, Dobson; Paea, Hodgson, Walker, Lovegrove, Horne, Mika. Subs: Tuimavave, Cox, Green, Griffin.