SAINTS got what they needed against Leigh Centurions – a tough test in their final warm-up game.

Relegated Leigh, as they did against Wigan at the weekend, pushed Saints to the wire.

In the end it was a Zeb Taia try that proved to be the difference, but fans would have left the ground talking about just one man – full-back Ben Barba.

The Australian superstar struck with three magic moments in the opening 40 minutes, two providing him with tries and another handing a score to stand-off Jonny Lomax.

Those highlights, before he was replaced at the break, provide a taste of what’s to come in his first full season in the red vee.

Leigh had a decent full-back themselves in journeyman Craig Hall.

In Leigh colours after a spell at Toronto Wolfpack, he gave the Saints side no end of problems and his try early in the second half had handed his new club a 20-12 lead at that stage.

Saints’ opening two tries flattered to deceive against the Championship title favourites.

The new-look visitors, relegated last season, twice took over the lead at the back end of an open and entertaining first half.

A knock-on in the act of playing the ball by Jamie Acton led to Saints scoring from their opening set after two minutes.

Barba accelerated on to a Jonny Lomax pass and from his half break he had the England international on his inside for the return ball to cross from 10 metres.

Mark Percival struck his conversion attempt wide from well within range.

Bodene Thompson dropped the ball with the try-line begging after 10 minutes and Leigh were then stung at the other end too as Barba collected from Smith and then, with a little fancy footwork, bamboozled four defenders to touch down from what had appeared to be a nothing situation.

This time Smith had a go at the kicking and was well off target from slightly further distance away.

Leigh showed enterprise in attack and from a Regan Grace knock-on deep inside his own half the visitors took their opportunity patiently, Craig Hall eventually getting a long arm free to slip a pass for Scotland hooker Liam Hood to cross after 24 minutes.

Ben Reynolds’ kicking boots must also have been left at home.

Four minutes later Leigh were ahead.

With options either side of the ruck, Drew Hutchison steered his team to the left where French back-rower Kevin Larroyer barged his way over. This time Reynolds was able to improve the try for a 12-10 lead.

Barba produced the magic again to restore Saints’ advantage after 33 minutes.

Coming from deep behind Smith to take his pass with a juggle, again he slithered between three defenders for Saints’ third unconverted score.

Again Leigh hit back, striking on Saints’ right once again.

Hall’s incisive interaction from full-back gave Peter Mata’utia enough room to squeeze out a pass for former Saint Jack Owens to dive over in the corner, too far out for Reynolds to add the extras but the try ensured Leigh turned round 14-12 in front.

With 22 substitutes listed between the teams, there was always going to be a fair bit of rotation.

Danny Richardson, Theo Fages, Matty Costello and Adam Swift were introduced at the break for Smith, Roby, Barba and Grace respectively but this time it was Leigh to start the half brightly.

A minute into the second period Hall, after switching to left centre, popped up to regather Hutchison’s grubber kick and he added the bonus points himself to move Neil Jukes’ men 20-12 clear.

Saints responded in the 53rd minute when Percival got away down the left and picked out Richardson on his inside to finish off. And with Richardson gaoling from the touchline, Saints had reduced the gap to 20-18.

Lomax shook off a couple of defenders to hand the ball over to a charging bull in the shape of Taia for a 61st minute try, converted by Richardson, that steered Saints back in front at 24-20.

At that point Justin Holbrook made four substitutions, including Lomax taking a breather and new signing James Bentley getting a taste of the action.

The game tightened up on the back of all the changes and Saints managed, in the end, to save any blushes on the scoreboard.

Saints: Ben Barba; Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Regan Grace; Jonny Lomax, Matty Smith; Kyle Amor, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Dominique Peyroux, Jon Wilkin. Subs: Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Morgan Knowles, Danny Richardson, Matty Lees, Jack Ashworth, Jake Spedding, James Bentley, Matty Costello, Carl Burrows.

Leigh: Craig Hall; Matty Dawson, Ben Crooks, Pater Mata’utia, Jack Owens; Ben Reynolds, Drew Hutchison, Harrison Hansen, Daniel Mortimer, Jamie Acton, Kevin Larroyer, Bodene Thompson, Jordan Thompson. Subs: Liam Hood, Larne Patrick,Kyle Lovett, Nathan Mason, Greg Richards, Nick Gregson, Jonah Cunningham, Jack Blagbrough, Ilias Bergal, Jordan Dezaria.

Referee: Phil Bentham