THERE were a few eyebrows raised when Saints coach Mike McClennan crossed the Pennines in 1990 to sign veteran prop forward Kevin Ward from Castleford.

At 33, the Great Britain front rower had seen plenty of rugby – but McClennan viewed the seasoned campaigner as just the type of forward Saints needed to give the young pack a leader.

And in three seasons, he did just that for a Saints team desperately trying to live and compete with the all-conquering, big-spending Wiganers.

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Ward was a big man; a tough, no-nonsense, battle-hardened warrior who was direct in his approach in taking the ball in – but athletic and skilful with it.

All of a sudden Saints had an enforcer on the teamsheet that would make the opposite look down on the list and brace themselves for a torrid 80 minutes (as props did back then).

The additional string to his bow was the offload, using his strength to hold off the tackler and get the ball away.

In his time at Saints he earned the nickname of Fred Flintstone, and because of his rapport with fellow packman Bernard Dwyer (below) his sidekick was given the moniker of Barney Rubble.

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Ward was invaluable to that team, the cornerstone of the Saints pack that helped subdue Kurt Sorenson et al in the highly-fancied Widnes team in the 1991 Challenge Cup semi-final.

Seeking another Wembley winner`s medal to match the one he won with Cas in 1986, Ward was denied despite a determined effort against Wigan. Would five or ten more minutes have meant a different winner walking up the steps?

Saints avenged that defeat the following year, with Ward to the fore as they walloped Wigan in the Lancashire Cup semi at Knowsley Road before seeing off Rochdale Hornets in the final.

In his third and final season, Saints had a real dig at Wigan in all competitions.

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A fine winning run at the start came to a halt in the last ever Lancashire Cup Final, a bruising affair in front of a massive Knowsley Road crowd, Saints losing 5-4 to Wigan.

Saints were neck-and-neck with Wigan that year in the league and the stage was set on Good Friday for what was effectively a title decider at Central Park.

A gate of 29, 839 tested the old Wigan ground to bursting point – many more viewed from the bridge.

And it made for tense viewing, with no quarter asked and none given as the teams pounded into each other.

A Saints win would have delivered their first Championship since 1975 – but alas it was not to be with the game tied effectively handing Wigan the title on points difference.

But that was not the worst of it.

Late in the second half, with the teams going at it hammer and tongs, Ward fearlessly drove into the tackle – and his leg buckled in the tackle. He had suffered an horrific broken leg – a career ending injury.

It was not the way any player would want to go out – and the complications were so severe with it that there were even greater concerns than merely stopping playing.

He was, however, in the stands at Old Trafford, on crutches, watching Saints lift the Premiership Trophy to deny Wigan the clean sweep.

A great servant to the Saints at a time when they needed a tough old head.