Yates’ verdict: Heartbreaking end after a season of domination

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In sport there has to be winners and losers but when neither side deserves to finish second best, then it can be ever so cruel on the vanquished.

Saints had to swallow the bitter pill of defeat in the Betfred Super League semi-final play-off against Warrington Wolves at the Totally Wicked Stadium last night (Thursday) in a ferocious fought derby encounter which could have gone either way and balanced delicately on a knife’s edge until the final hooter sounded.

The lead changed hands several times and after a first half almost totally devoid of clear cut chances, two tries from Warrington winger Tom Lineham proved decisive in a match which was a throw back to the old days when Rugby League thrived on total aggression, tough no-nonsense tackling and an insatiable appetite to succeed.

Neither was it surprising to see the stunned reaction of the St Helens players to only their sixth defeat in all competitions this year and left wondering where it all went wrong in the final analysis.

Bitterly disappointed head coach Justin Holbrook said: “It was heart-breaking to lose.

“It was a good and hard 80 minutes but we simply didn’t create sufficient chances.

“As the final score line suggests, there was little in it - we kept nudging ahead but made a couple of poor decisions defensively, while Warrington, to their credit, took the few chances which came their way.”

The Aussie went on: “Has this season been a success? It depends who you ask but for me it is a no. You work hard all year to give yourselves the best chance but we knew we had to win two more games.We had to win tonight to get a chance but didn’t play well enough.

“At the same time I’m extremely proud of our effort .We worked and tried hard for 80 minutes but there’s no next week.”

Despite winning the League Leaders’ Shield, which is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination, this will now pale into insignificance along side their failure to lift the Grand Final crown.

Other sports find it baffling that a team, which tops the table at the end of the regular season, doesn’t get the true recognition it deserves - and it’s about time the powers-that-be did something about it.

MATCH FACTS

Saints tries: Douglas (41 mins).

Goals: Richardson (14, 43 and 50).

Drop goals: Richardson (37, 68 and 71).

Warrington tries: Hughes(45), (Lineham 58 and 73).

Goals: Roberts (11, 59 and 76),

Penalties: Saints 11 Warrington 7.

Half-time: 3-2.

Full-time: 13-18.

Referee: Robert Hicks.

Attendance: 12,309.

Teams - Saints: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 20. Matty Lees, 15 Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson, 11. Zeb Taia, 17. Dom Peyroux, 12. Jon Wilkin. Subs: 9 James Roby,13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 21 Jack Ashworth.

Warrington: 1. Stefan Ratchford; 2. Tom Lineham, 3. Bryson Goodwin, 18. Toby King, 27. Josh Charnley; 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Tyrone Roberts; 8. Chris Hill, 9. Daryl Clark, 10. Mike Cooper, 30. Bodene Thompson, 12. Jack Hughes, 34. Ben Westwood. Subs: 13. Ben Murdoch-Masaila, 15. Declan Patton, 17. Joe Philbin, 19. George King.