SAINTS ground out a tough win against neighbours Leigh Leopards to make it three from three at the start of Super League 2024.

Faced with a stubborn defence that was off its line quickly, Saints had to produce a battling, but patient performance.

A try in each half – from Jack Welsby and Tommy Makinson – was enough to take the two points, but the scoreline would have been more comfortable had Saints polished off some of their late opportunities.

Credit to Saints prop Alex Walmsley, who was a tower of strength in the middle and ably supported by fellow middles Sione Mata’utia and Morgan Knowles.

Sub loose forward James Bell again showed his craft at prising gaps in a tight defence – creating the opening score and very nearly a second one near the end.

Behind them Lewis Dodd again kicked well under pressure and his willingness to attack the line contributed to Saints’ match-clinching score.

There was maybe some understandable needle around this game, with lingering memories of that Challenge Cup semi-final and they were rekindled when Leigh skipper John Asiata went low at the legs of Sione Mata’utia and was yellow carded.

Asiata’s return was short-lived and he limped off midway through the half.

It was a tough old first half, with Leigh up very quickly and Saints finding room to manoeuvre at a premium.

At times it was like they were trying to fight their way out of a sack.

That, combined with some ordinary early set endings and mistimed offloads, made it tough going at times.

Saints had to be alert and resolute in defence too when Leigh countered – and the Konrad Hurrell thunderous tackle on opposite number Ricky Leutele close to the line underlined that.

Saints cracked the stubborn Leigh defence on 32 minutes when James Bell, spelling Morgan Knowles at 13, took the ball to the line with Matty Whitley hitting a fine line and slipping the ball away for the supporting Jack Welsby to finish off in style.

Saints thought they had doubled the lead when Hurrell surged over in the corner, but that went up as no try and there was nothing in the video to overturn that.

Ahead 4-0 at the break, scores were soon level when Saints were opened up on their left edge and there was no stopping experienced centre Zak Hardaker from getting the ball down.

Saints responded with a wonderful passage of play with Hurrell’s offload deep in their half snapped up by the supporting Welsby.

Dodd, playing with some confidence took on the defence, weaving through and pinning back his ears before finding the supporting Tommy Makinson who motored on to the ball to see off the covering Leopards.

Percival’s conversion and a penalty some minutes later for an off the ball push on Lomax made it 12 -4 approaching the hour mark.

After a long period of pressure Saints had an opportunity to put it to bed but Knowles could not cleanly take Walmsley’s offload with the line begging.

There were more late opportunities that Saints could not quite finish off, including a Makinson dive into the corner that was denied by the touch judge’s flag.

Leigh never gave up –there are too many wily customers and strike in the team for that, but Saints kept them out to maintain their 100 per cent record.

Saints; Welsby; Makinson, Hurrell, Percival, Bennison; Lomax, Dodd; Walmsley, Clark, Mata'utia, Whitley, Sironen, Knowles. Subs: Mbye, Bell, Wingfield, Delaney.

Leigh: O'Brien; Briscoe, Hardaker, Leutele, Charnley; Moylan, Lam; Hughes, Dwyer, Mulhern, O'Donnell, Halton, Asiata. Subs; Norman, Davis, Trout, Nakubuwai.

Att: 13,028.