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Difficult to judge on game wrecked by weather
THE now traditional match night downpour, which began a couple of hours before kick-off and continued unabated throughout the course of the game, spoiled Saints’ opening hit-out of the year.
It was hard to make any serious judgement on Saints’ shape for the season ahead based on this 80 minutes, not simply because of the conditions turned the ball into a bar of soap.
A look down a team list featuring 16 substitutes immediately spelled out that this was going to be an experimental match, aimed at giving every fit player a run out.
That none of those players was star signing and linchpin of the 2014 side Luke Walsh was a matter of disappointment for those fans who braved the torrential rain.
There probably also an understandable groan from last year’s makeshift seven Jon Wilkin, who was no doubt looking to begin his campaign restored to the back row.
Walsh, it was revealed, had taken a bang in training and given his vital importance to this team, there was no way he was going to be risked.
The starting line up threw up a couple of surprises, with last year’s star centre Jordan Turner handed the first crack at stand off.
Again it was hard to make any call on this showing. Batley were determined and dogged, and it was hard for Saints not to get sucked into a slugfest up the middle.
Any attempt they made to promote the ball and push it wide invariably saw spillage, with new boy Matty Dawson particularly unfortunate with his first touches.
The weather was something of a leveller but that would be disrespectful to John Kear’s Batley, who played as if they were keen to prove a point.
Kear later admitted that he told his players they could follow in the footsteps of big Alex Walmsley into Super League if they caught the eye. Some of the forwards in cerise and fawn, particularly Brad Brennan, did just that.
Saints were limited to just two first half tries, with Tommy Makinson given space to cross in the right corner on 16 minutes, but handling errors saw frustration mount.
Saints finally breached the Batley line again in the closing play of the game after some urgency was shown forming the scrum with barely seconds on the clock.
A classic set-piece saw Mark Percival show good determination to slice through after good link-up play from full back Jonny Lomax.
Five minutes after the break back rower Mark Flanagan marked his first game back after the horrendous knee injury suffered at Hull KR in April with a try.
Flanagan powered over from 20 metres after backing up a fine break from Lance Hohaia. The minutes played by long-term casualties Flanagan, Gary Wheeler and Ade Gardner was one of the pleasing factors of the encounter.
Centre Josh Jones motored home for the try of the match to wrap up the scoring.
Saints: Lomax; Makinson, Percival, Jones, Dawson; Turner, Wilkin; Amor, Roby, Walmsley, Flanagan, Greenwood, Hand. Subs: Hohaia, Manu, Laffranchi, Wellens, Clough, Gardner, Wheeler, Walker, Richards, Forster, Tilley, Charnock, Dwyer, Clare, Ashworth, Galbraith.
Batley: Greenwood; Campbell, Bretherton, Paterson, Finigan; Black, Leatherbarrow; Smith, Leak, Brennan, Scott, Chandler, Applegarth. Subs: Faal, Rowe, Davies, Leary, L Blake, A Blake.