HEAD coach Royce Simmons warned on the eve of Stobart Super League XVII that playing in a new state-of-the-art stadium – and expectations higher than ever – could backfire on Saints.
Those words almost came back to haunt him on day one at Langtree Park – visitors Salford City Reds threatening to put a damper on an historical, emotional and tear-jerking night.
Fears that the Saints’ player would be affected by all the pre-match razzmatazz, and the return of former Knowsley Road legend Tom van Vollenhoven to the club closest to his heart to officially kick off the match, looked valid as Salford stormed into a 10-4 interval lead.
But after an error-riddled opening 40 minutes, Saints recovered their composure and six unanswered second-half tries quelled the nerves of both players and fans alike.
Simmons said: “During the past month everyone has been talking about the opening match in a new stadium, and what a special occasion it will be with a massive crowd inside the ground and all the hype involved.
“The players came out with the right attitude and wanted to try their best, but they started playing more as individuals than a team, coming out to make big hits and missing people, and as a result our ball control suffered.”
He added: “At half-time we talked about believing in each other a bit more and getting back to what we had done on the training pitch during the build-up to the match, which had been fantastic.
“We then went out and got some of those things right. There was definitely a big improvement from the first-half to the second-half, but had there not been I would probably have run out of the stadium doors and headed back to Oz!”