Saints 25 Red Devils 24

Saints coach Justin Holbrook
Saints coach Justin Holbrook

St Helens coach Justin Holbrook hailed his side’s character as they recovered from a 16-point deficit with seven minutes to go to beat Salford Red Devils 25-24.

Saints scored three tries - two of them converted - before Matty Smith kicked a match winning drop-goal after the full-time hooter sounded to deny Salford what would have been their first away win against the Saints in 37 years.

Holbrook said: “It was fantastic to see that sort of finish. I’m just as excited as the players.

“I know it’s easy to say because we won but I was always confident that we had a chance. I thought we were unlucky not to have led at half-time and in the second it was all Salford. I think they completed every set and didn’t give us a chance.

“It was very gutsy from us. It is great for the players to have that belief to finish like that.”

Former Salford scrum-half Smith had been copping abuse all night from the Red Devils fans but he had the perfect response with a long-range drop-goal to win the game.

“It was unbelievable,” said Holbrook. “I think he thought it was over as soon as he kicked it because he ran 30 metres in the opposite direction. I’m really happy for Matty - good players stand up in big moments and that was as good as it gets to hit that field goal.”

Salford coach Ian Watson said his side would learn lessons from the harsh nature of their defeat.

“It was a tough lesson and a tough way to learn a lesson,” he said.

“We didn’t play particularly well in the first half but we rectified that in the second. We started to play with resilience in defence but in the last 10 minutes it was like we’d already won the game.

“If you do that against any good team you’re going to get bit. We need to take that as a lesson and learn it pretty quickly because the further you get down the track there are going to be big games where we need that arm-wrestle mentality.

“I thought Todd Carney controlled the game along with Rob Lui and we got into a big lead but we shouldn’t be giving that lead up.

“It’s tough to take but we will put it to bed and learn lessons for next week.”

ends