Yates' verdict: Result more important that performance in cup competition

It could be argued with some justification that on at least three occasions Saints were lulled into a false sense of security as they battled to overcome injury-ravaged Leeds Rhinos in the third round of the Challenge Cup at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 8:22 am
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook is tackled by Leeds’ Zanew Tetavano during Saturday's Challenge Cup tie. Picture: SWPix

Only a few minutes had ticked by when winger Tommy Makinson crashed over the whitewash to post the first points of the afternoon, seeming to suggest that cup holders Leeds were about to suffer a mother and father of a hiding.

It then looked almost a racing certainty after the Loiners loose forward Zane Tetevand was shown the red card early in the second half for a high tackle on scrum half Theo Fages.

And finally, with Saints appearing to be cruising into the quarter finals, they allowed a 20-6 lead to almost evaporate in front of their eyes before Makinson plunged over in the last minute to put a tantalising, if unspectacular, tie to bed.

Naturally, all the post-match plaudits were showered on the makeshift Headingley outfit after they had come within a whisker of forcing at least golden point extra-time - but neither should it be ignored that the hosts lost two key figures, Matty Lees and Sione Mata'utia, through injury in the first half alone which disrupted their original game plan to some extent.

No one, however, will be going overboard about Saints' 80 minute display in a match which was littered with too many handling errors.

But in the Challenge Cup the main objective is to reach the next round whether by hook or crook.

In a sudden death competition, the result is far more important than the performance and Saints don't need telling that.

Now Kristian Woolf's side face the Huddersfield Giants in the next round on the weekend of May 7-8 after the Tykes defeated Leigh Centurions 36-18 on Sunday.

It is a repeat of the 2006 final at Twickenham which Saints won 42-12, but they will need to show an improvement on Saturday's overall form if they are to progress to within touching distance of Wembley.

The Giants have lost both their opening Betfred Super League matches and lie ninth in the table but have claimed Saints' scalp a few times in the recent past, including a shock cup semi-final victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2009.