Kyle leads young guns to win at the Willows

James Roby
James Roby

SAINTS produced the perfect formula to end two seasons of misery at the Willows on Friday night.

A blend of experience and youth proved too hot to handle – making Salford the victims of a 10-try mauling and lucky the scoreline wasn’t even more embarrassing.

Coach Royce Simmons selected a squad with any average age of just under 25, and they responded with an exhilarating 80-minute display.

Stand-in skipper and hooker James Roby, 25, led by example and with 21-year-old Kyle Eastmond and 20-year-old Lee Gaskell dovetailing at half-back, the trio ripped the opposition to shreds, especially in a devastating first-half show of electrifying pace, in which Saints ran amok by scoring seven tries.

Eastmond, who is considering a lucrative offer to join Bath when his contract expires at the end of the season, also demonstrated what Saints will miss if he switches codes.

He quickly put his patchy performance against Wigan Warriors the previous weekend behind him, orchestrating a large percentage of his side’s positive moves.

But if his future lies in the 15-a-side game, there are already others knocking on the door, as rookie Gaskell clearly emphasised.

The former Blackbrook Royals youngster was making only his fourth senior appearance, but didn’t look out of place at this level.

It was a similar story at full-back, where 20-year-old Jonny Lomax took over from Paul Wellens, sidelined by a rib problem, and, not for the first time, looked comfortable.

Saints’ superiority also gave Simmons the chance to ease Shaun Magennis into second-half action.

The Aussie coach said: “All our youngsters did good jobs. They brought plenty of energy to the side – something I had asked them to do.”

At the same time, tough-to-please Simmons bemoaned the fact that his side conceded four tries in the process, and will no doubt be cracking the whip further in training to iron out one or two defensive deficiencies.

Saints, who had lost on their two previous visits to the Willows, never looked like they were heading for an unwanted hat-trick and stormed into an unassailable 38-6 interval lead.

The floodgates opened as early as the fifth minute, when Salford were punished for their failure to find touch with a defensive clearance. Lomax seized possession and instigated a move in which Roby and Gaskell set up Chris Flannery for a try.

Jamie Foster landed the conversion, and the 20-year-old was on target again four minutes later as Jon Wilkin’s astute kick sent Eastmond scampering over the whitewash.

Luke Patten gave Salford a modicum of hope by blasting his way over after quarter of an hour – a try which Dan Holdsworth converted – but that soon disappeared into the night sky as Saints scored five more times in a stunning 19-minute spell.

Roby weaved his way over, Gaskell carved out an opening for Francis Meli following an incisive Eastmond run and then a sublime piece of skill from Tony Puletua, in which he flicked the ball out of the back of his hand, left Salford bewildered and led to Eastmond notching his second try.

Saints could easily have dropped a gear with half-time approaching, but instead accelerated further – Eastmond sending Lomax strolling over before the pair turned try-makers to pave the way for the impressive Ade Gardner to open his 2011 account.

Foster also took his goal tally to five from seven attempts to bring down the curtain on a one-sided first half.

Reds started the second half positively with a try, Ashley Gibson smashing his way over, but within seconds Gaskell scored his second career try, to which Foster added his sixth goal.

Paul Clough claimed the ninth try after 47 minutes, before Saints completed their spree when two hack-ons enabled Michael Shenton to pounce on the loose ball and score, with Foster taking his goal tally to eight.

Stefan Ratchford and Jodie Broughton claimed late consolation tries for Salford, but it didn’t stop their angry fans calling for the resignation of former Saints’ boss Shaun McRae when the final hooter sounded.