Yates’ verdict: Cunningham’s grace under fire

Saints coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints coach Keiron Cunningham

Luck, it is said, evens itself out over a season whatever your chosen sport.

Saints didn't exactly get a rub of the green when crashing to an 18-10 defeat at Warrington in the Super 8s semi-final but to their credit they didn't use one or two questionable decisions as a ready-made excuse for what was a bitter and numbing setback.

The difference between success and failure can often be wafer-thin - and on another night the final score line could so easily have been reversed and Saints would now be preparing for their 11th trip to Old Trafford since the current format was introduced in 1998.

A decision by match referee Ben Thaler not to 'go upstairs' to confirm or deny a third Wolves' try, in which TV replays later clearly showed winger Tom Lineham knocking-on at the point of impact, proved crucial at a stage when the hosts were holding on to a slender 14-10 second-half lead.

Saints then had a late Dominique Peyroux try ruled out by the video referee who insisted that the Kiwi had grounded the ball short of the whitewash, and while it may not have altered the final result, the call was in sharp contrast to the one delivered 24 hours later in the Wigan Warriors-Hull FC semi-final.

Again Ben Thaler had a part to play - being the video referee at the DW Stadium - and after the longest delay I can ever remember in reaching a decision he ruled Hull's Steve Michaels had got his finger-tips to the ball.

As events turned out, it didn't stop Wigan deservedly advancing to the final - but no one will will convince me that the Airlie Birds' try carried greater merit than the one which Peyroux was denied.

Saints' boss Keiron Cunningham could so easily have ranted and raved at one or two of the verdicts which went against his side on the night but went little further than saying: “We couldn't buy a call tonight”.

I doubt few other coaches would have accepted defeat in such a magnanimous manner.