WHILE accepting that Saints got things wrong in the closing stages of their 12-10 defeat to Salford Red Devils, head coach Kristian Woolf could not hide his pleasure in seeing the club's rising young talents stand their ground at Super League level.

Five made their debuts - Nico Rizzelli, 20, Tom Nisbet, 21, and Ben Davies, 20, were in the starting backline, while 19-year-olds Matthew Foster and Jake Wingfield joined in off the bench in the 12-10 loss at Headingley.

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Pictures: Bernard Platt

Another Academy product Josh Eaves made his first start, while Lewis Dodd and Josh Simm are also rookies and alongside some experienced hands they kept Saints in the lead from the third minute to the 75th against the Challenge Cup runners-up.

To do what they did at the top level after a year in which the coronavirus pandemic wiped out their playing opportunities at Academy and Reserves level was impressive.

“A lot of those guys haven’t played since March," said Woolf, whose side led 10-0 early on thanks to a third-minute converted try by Eaves and two penalty goals by Lewis Dodd.

"Jake Wingfield has been out for 14 to 15 months and it’s his first game back, and I thought he was terrific.

“It’s all the more reason to be proud of the effort the blokes have put in.

“Not only were there so many young guys out there, there were so many making their debut that haven’t played footy for a long time.

“They’ve worked hard, they’ve kept their heads about themselves, they’ve been really disciplined and they got the opportunity to show what they can do.”

He added: "I was very proud of the effort. I thought they did a great job.

"I thought they showed they're right up to this level and for 75 minutes of that game they were ahead."

Pauli Pauli barged over on the half-time hooter to give Salford a lifeline and then Krisnan Inu crossed converted from the touchline his own 75th-minute try to give Salford the win.

"In terms of how to win a game, there were a lot of blokes who will take a lot of lessons out of that last couple of minutes just in terms of how important every play is and how that can hurt you with the result," said Woolf.

"Every play counts at this level and a number of young blokes will learn that.

"There was a number of situations where if we got our fifth play right in the last 7, 8, 9 minutes we could have really made it tough for Salford.

"If we'd scored a try we should have scored I think that would have broken them.

"If we didn't make an error coming off our own line and then rolled down the other end of the field and put them in a bad position again that certainly could have broken them.

"There's a number of little things like that just started to add up and instead of us being able to put scoreboard pressure on the opposition when we were on top they were able to keep the pressure on us and that's what our blokes will learn."