SAINTS boss Kristian Woolf was left to rue the missed opportunities after seeing his side just fall short in their mission to to be World Club champions - but was nevertheless proud as punch with their effort.

Despite matching Sydney Roosters physically - no mean feat - Saints went down to a 20-12 defeat.

The key difference over the course of the 80 minutes was the back-to-back NRL premiers were more clinical with their chances, while Saints failed to execute all of the opportunities they created.

In post match Woolf said: "I am very proud of our effort. I thought our blokes tried really hard and for long periods of that game I felt we were well on top physically and I said just keep chipping away.

"The unfortunate thing was we created plenty of opportunities and did a really good job for the most part defensively.

"When we had those opportunities we did not quite ice a couple of those tonight."

Saints took an early lead through a Luke Thompson try, but touchdowns from Daniel Tupou and Joseph Manu gave the visitors an 8-6 lead at the break.

But Saints went in at the break with some confidence after just seeing Tommy Makinson denied and they came out in the second half with real purpose.

But critically they could not make them count, with Makinson's effort chalked off.

"If you look around in that period around half time we had a disallowed try just before half time – a real 50-50 call, and then another one again just after which was again another 50-50," Woolf said.

"We had a couple of opportunities where we threw it over the sideline or dropped it with the line wide open.

"We just had to ice one of those I think and then you start to put pressure on the opposition and you are looking at a really different game, particularly when you have such dominance.

"Unfortunately tonight we just weren’t able to do that.

"We created plenty of opportunities but we did not quite finish them. To their credit the couple of opportunities Roosters created they iced them and found points."

Those came through Manu's second and another try from stand-off Luke Keary, before Alex Walmsley crashed over towards the end to cut the deficit to eight points.

Up against one of the toughest, most relentless packs in the NRL, the Saints forwards really stood up strongly with Walmsley looking particularly fired up as he constantly put a dent in the Roosters line.

He was not alone - and Woolf was quick to share the praise around.

"There was nobody I was disappointed with in terms of effort," he said.

"I thought Al, Tommo and Morgan Knowles really ripped in against a terrific pack – the best pack in the world in terms of club footy.

"Our blokes who came off the bench too, did a terrific job – Matty Lees and Louie – as they do every week, come on and gave us plenty of energy.

"And in that period when we were on top just after half time they were a big part of that.

"It was great to have James Roby back too.

"And he is only going to get better with more footy.

"I thought we got the better of them physically in patches.

"Roosters are a really physical pack and if you want to stay in the contest you have to match them physically. I thought we did that really well throughout the course of the game.

"There were periods where we probably did get on top – and others where they got on top of us.

"It was a very even contest.

"That game could have gone either way tonight – it was a closely contested game of footy.

"In the end they won – and so Roosters are still the best team in the world.

"But we beat most teams tonight, that is for sure."

Saints had key players missing in Lachlan Coote, Mark Percival and Regan Grace - but in their places Woolf felt their young replacements were "outstanding" in the circumstances.

"We had a couple of young blokes out there – Jack Welsby, Matty Costello and then James Bentley playing in the centres.

"They did an outstanding job against some top opposition.

"If you look at Joseph Manu and what he has done on the international stage and is a terrific football player.

"Those young blokes will take a lot of confidence out of it – they should do because they held their own really well.

"Blokes like James Bentley deserve some real accolades because he’s played hooker, back row, some lock and he pops ups in the centres and just does a job and competes hard wherever we put him.

"The thing you learn from a game like that is how much every opportunity you do create you have to make it count.

"We had very few lapses defensively, but the three we did have hurt us with points – that is what you learn as well," Woolf said.