Our writer John Yates gives his verdict on Saints’ topsy-turvy performance against relegation-threatened Bradford Bulls.
All the good and bad points were encapsulated in 80 tell-tale minutes against relegation-haunted Bradford Bulls at sun-kissed Langtree Park on Friday night.
Leading 40-0 early in the second half and odds-on to better their 50-0 destruction of the Bulls at Odsal in early May, they unaccountably and inexplicably conceded four tries in quarter of an hour.
It didn’t really threaten their chances of notching a 15th Super League victory of the season, or maintaining top spot in the league, but left some unresolved questions.
Did Saints allow complacency to creep in after monopolising the exchanges for close on an hour, or were they simply the victims of a purple patch of form from Jimmy Lowes’ boys?
Somewhere in the middle is probably the answer.
However, coach Nathan Brown will be able to take some positives from the game - none more so than the contribution from his pack which, following the return of Kyle Amor and Anthony Laffranchi from injury, had more or less a full contingency of ‘musclemen’ available and it was reflected in their contribution to a commanding 28-0 interval lead and subsequent victory.
It gave extra space for their more skilful team-mates, like Paul Wellens, to cash-in - the evergreen skipper scoring early on and then completing the demolition job with his second try of the night at the death.
Brown said: “Paul is one of the most consistent and competitive players in the squad and fights for everything.
“He is a player that you love to coach and have in your team, rarely has a a bad day and always puts his body on the line. That is why he is important and such a good leader.
“We need 17 players who want to scrap for everything.”
Words, which Brown may be directing at a minority of Wello’s team-mate after implying during the past couple of week that one or two had not been fully stepped up to the plate.
He couldn’t, however, have any complaints about the commitment and desire shown in the first-half of Friday’s game - 28 unanswered points bringing Bradford to their knees.
Hooker James Roby darted in for the opening try from Mark Flanagan’s off-load after nine minutes and seven minutes later Wellens charged through a huge gap to score virtually unchallenged.
Substitute Mose Masoe smashed his way through on the half hour mark before centre Mark Percival claimed his seventh try of the campaign.
Percival also set up winger Adam Swift for Saints’ fifth try of the first half in which the former also helped himself to four goals from five attempts.
There seemed little respite for the beleaguered-looking Bulls as stand-off Lance Hohaia and Tommy Makinson both crossed and Percival took his goal tally to six early in the second period.
Trailing by 40 points, Bradford could have been excused for surrendering and waving the white flag but with Lowes now calling the shots from the sidelines they showed the kind of tenacity and determination he had displayed as a player by defiantly roaring back with four tries in next to no time.
Scrum half Luke Gale sparked the mini-revival after 57 minutes, pouncing on a loose ball to touch down before substitute Joe Arundel, centre Adrian Purtell and former Saints winger Jamie Foster got in on the try-scoring act - the latter also landing three goals.
But Saints had the final say when Wellens put the finishing touches of a polished all round individual perfomance by scoring his second try on the hooter and Percival slotting over a seventh goal from eight attempts.