Yates view: Saints v Leeds

Leeds' Aston Golding gets gripped by Kyle Amor
Leeds' Aston Golding gets gripped by Kyle Amor

It never reached the dizzy heights of many Saints-Leeds clashes of yesteryear but the Betfred Super League opening fixture at the Totally Wicked Stadium had 12,000 fans on tenterhooks from start to finish.

Maybe one of the major reasons was the narrow 6-4 scoreline in Saints’ favour - the lowest points total involving the clubs in their last 11 meetings - and possibly the manner in which the supremacy swayed back and forth like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, often on the back of a basic handling error.

Action from Saints v Leeds

Action from Saints v Leeds

But low scoring or not, Saints’ head coach Keiron Cunningham will be more than happy already having two points in the bag from such a tricky fixture.

Victory was built on some outstanding defending and what Cunningham later described as ‘resilience.’

The hosts certainly had their backs to the wall for large parts of the first half and also under mounting pressure as the clock ticked towards the 80 minute mark.

Twelve months ago, they would arguably have crumbled like a freshly-made loaf of bread under similar circumstances but the recruitment of new blood and some of the younger element benefiting from another 12 months’ experience in the game seems to have given them added steel.

But someone still needed to pull the strings and the answer lay in the hands of man of the match Theo Fages.

The French half back’s all-round performance was awesome to say the least,

tackling like a Trojan and crowning his night with Saints’ decisive second-half try.

Any fears that he and his new ‘partner in crime,’ debutant Danny Richardson, would fluff their lines as they attempted to control the middle-of-the-park exchanges were quickly erased and with more serious game-time together can only get better.

Cunningham said: “I think the togetherness of this group is far more advanced than any I have ever worked with in terms of unity and that showed tonight. It wasn’t pretty at times but we worked hard for each other.

“We got a nice early score and then defended our way to victory. They threw a lot at us and we had some players out of position but I thought we deserved it. Victories create belief and we can take a lot of confidence from it.”

Tommy Makinson, playing his first league match since suffering a serious knee injury last Easter, will also take a great deal of confidence from his return which also included a last-gasp early second-half flying tackle on Kallam Watkins which kept Saints’ heads above water.

Cunningham declared: “I thought Tommy was fantastic - making up for his decision not to send Matty Knowles over under the posts!

“His big tackle was a game-changer but there was a lot of game changers out there.

“The middles were outstanding, Tommy Lee, James Robes and skipper Jon Wilkin were great. Wilko did 60 in the middle and 20 in the back row.

“Theo was outstanding, too, and completed 42 tackles. They went at him like a battering ram all night and he made tackles and put on his plays. To a man I thought we were outstanding.

“Danny had a great debut, too. We kept it simple for the half backs and they both did well.”