HEAVYWEIGHT Tongan international prop Agnatius Paasi had a choice between Leeds Rhinos and Saints when deciding to leave NRL outfit New Zealand Warriors.

And had Kristian Woolf not used his past link-up to secure the big man’s services, Saturday’s outcome may well have been different.

Paasi’s introduction off the bench just before the break tipped the momentum back Saints’ way against last year’s Challenge Cup winners.

Just when it looked like Leeds – short on first choice backs but well-blessed with forwards – were getting on top, Paasi erupted on to the pitch.

It was his first game back after going off in the opening round at Salford with a head knock sustained in collision with Pauli Pauli.

But there was no holding back – quite the reverse – with Leeds prop King Vuniyayawa unfortunately picking up a head knock after being left in his wake from one massive carry.

It energised the Saints pack, who had lost both Natty Lees and Sione Mata’utia in the opening 10 minutes, and was in need of a lift.

Woolf said: “I thought Iggy was outstanding.

“But to give our forwards credit, we had lost two middle forwards in the first 10 and that unsettled us.

“It meant that Kyle Amor and Louie played big minutes and you are leaving them hanging out there because you have made your interchanges early and they don’t get to make the same impact as they usually do.

“But Agnatius was outstanding.

“He started well against Salford and did not get the opportunity to keep going that night (due to his head knock).

“He showed his worth against Leeds and what he is going to bring.

“He has a great carry, footwork and a real skillset he has not been able to show yet.

“But he also backs that up with some really good aggressive defence.”

He made one storming run in particular, showing a good turn of pace for a big man.

And another charge created the platform for a Regan Grace try with his presence helping Saints re-assert control.

Woolf said: “I thought we got flustered and really needed half time.

“I thought our approach after half time was better, but we were guilty of putting ourselves under pressure in both halves.”

“Our work with the ball was not as good as it has been and needs to be.

“It looked like at times we wanted to score every time we had the ball and that doesn’t tend to end well for you.

“Whilst we defended well for long periods the tries we did conceded were not up to our standards.

“I am happy that we showed that resolve and overcame some adversity with losing two players early in the game.

“But as an overall performance we can’t be happy with that - we need to have a look and make sure we don’t make the same mistake again,” he said.