SAINTS produced as gutsy and as classy a performance as they have ever had to in their long reign as champions to beat Huddersfield – despite playing the last hour with 12 men and the final 10 minutes with 11.

Collectively resolute and individually brilliant, Saints were defiant in the face of twin hurdles having had to re-jig their spine after the unlucky Will Hopoate injured his head and shoulder in stopping an early Giants raid.

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But the line remained intact – even after Sione Mata’utia was red carded after being adjudged to have lifted a potentially injured player in Giants nine Danny Levi, Saints’ backs were against the wall, but roared on by the 18th man Saints dug deep to display the character that has been inbuilt into this side of Kristian Woolf’s.

And that defensive blood and thunder; that harrying and hustling to cover the flanks and pressurise the kickers and the impenetrable wall of muscle and bone across the middle was backed up by some class and sublime skill with the ball.

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As Saints went up in sixes, not once did they opt to stick – with their decision to twist yielding two more tries to put the icing on the cake to make a mockery of their numerical disadvantage.

Woolf expected a tough game against the Challenge Cup runners up and that is how it started with some smart play from the Giants forcing a drop out from a Theo Fages kick and the visitors threatened the line.

Saints were equal to it but when Hopoate got his body in the way of one raid on the left it came at some cost and he was led off with a head and shoulder knock.

They shuffled the spine, with Jack Welsby going to full back with James Roby slipping into the halves and Joey Lussick relishing the opportunity to come on early at nine.

Lussick was alert at dummy half and his big boot was valuable at times in keeping the Giants at bay.

Early Giants pressure was only relieved when a big Mata’utia’s tackle and ball strip forced a turnover.

It was then Saints’ turn to attack but an exquisite flick out by Morgan Knowles close to the line could not be held by Roby.

In a tight opening quarter Lomax, kicking for the first time since 2014, missed a penalty in front of the sticks before the game’s potentially pivotal moment.

Mata’utia was red carded after viewing from the screen appeared to show him attempting to move an injured player.

He shook his head in disbelief as he raced off the pitch, looking back to make sure it was red.

Heads did not drop – with the 12 men re-doubling their efforts. That was epitomised by the manner in which Welsby’s solid first contact, backed up by Lomax, forced Giants wing Innes Senior over the sidelines.

Saints remained under the cosh and this is when the fans raised their voices.

It was timely, and after Matty English dropped the ball on his own 40, Saints made it count.

Lussick darted from dummy half inside the 20, feeding Lomax who grubbered to the line for Joe Batchelor to chase and dot down.

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Lomax’s first of four goals made it 6-0 at the break with Giants missing a penalty on the half time hooter.

Saints started the second half strong, and after Lussick’s probe was stopped close to the line Agnatius Paasi hit the crash ball, powering past one defender and diving for the line for his second try in the red vee.

It was a reward for his thunderous carries that he brought to the table as soon as he came on - backed up with some physicality in defence.

Lomax goaled to give Saints a 12-0 lead.

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Saints were on fire and Welsby tore through the middle before being halted short of the line, Giants infringed and Lomax’s penalty made it a three-score lead.

Giants themselves suffered a sickener on 52 minutes when Jermaine McGilvary was helped off after sustaining a lower limb injury in the tackle.

Saints showed no mercy – and despite their one-man disadvantage they continued to move the ball and play football.

They were rewarded in 54 minutes when Welsby linked up from the back to take Lomax’s pass and slip the tackle to stretch over in front.

Lomax missed the conversion, and although Saints had an 18-0 lead they continued to play football.

Although Giants sought to create an overlap, Saints consistently got there in numbers to snuff it out twice snuffing the left wing’s chances out.

Saints almost extended their lead with Lomax kick wide, chased by Bennison who got a hand on the bouncing ball but not enough control.

Chris Kendall handed Morgan Knowles a yellow card for an incident late in the piece, but that simply poked the Saints bear to respond.

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And what a classy way to post a riposte from a Giants error – the long-striding Welsby broke from half way before sending Lomax in for the last 20 metres in front of the West Stand.

With the clock ticking into the final seconds, Welsby practised his golden point play to chip over a drop goal to make it an emphatic 25-0.

Saints: Hopoate; Bennison, Hurrell, Mata'utia, Grace; Welsby, Lomax; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paasi, Wingfield.

Huddersfield: Pryce; McGilvary, Cudjoe, King, Senior; Russell, Fages; Greenwood, Levi, Trout, Jones, McQueen, Yates. Subs: Goulding, Wilson, Ashworth, Hewitt.