John Yates assesses Saints performance during their 39-0 drubbing to South Sydney in front of a packed Langtree Park.
It was billed as the 2015 World Club Challenge but the way South Sydney clinically dissected Saints in front of nearly 18,000 dumb-founded fans at Langtree Park on Sunday one could be excused for thinking they had arrived in town from another planet.
The chasm between the two leading club sides from opposite ends of the globe in terms of skill and all-round ability was almost as wide as a Moon crater.
Saints didn’t remotely threaten to overcome the NRL aristocrats from the moment the silky smooth Aussies snatched an early confidence-building try and the rest was plain sailing.
But to suggest it was men versus boys would be harsh on the Super League champions who battled gamely from start to finish despite being outclassed in all facets of the game.
Neither could anyone question their commitment and never-say-die effort and endeavour, vividly illustrated by the forlorn figure of Alex Walmsley as he trudged off the field eight minutes from time after being substituted.
Prop Walmsley looked totally exhausted on his feet, gasping for breath and aching from head to foot.
Like all his team-mates, he had given everything on the night but that wasn’t good enough to topple a destructive and totally ruthless Bunnies’ outfit.
It was a severe but, hopefully, educating 80 minutes for coach Keiron Cunningham’s lads, particularly the younger members of the squad who are just making their way in the sport.
A disappointed Cunningham said: “We got schooled by the best side in the world tonight. If we have to learn a good lesson from today’s game it is sometimes you have to lose in a big fashion to learn some lessons.
“We did early season - when we lost in a friendly against Widnes Vikings - and we came back stronger.’’
He added: “At the start of the game, I wasn’t sure what set of rules we were playing under.
“We were supposed to be playing to international rules but they certainly weren’t the ones I read - and the first 20 minutes hurt us pretty bad.
“When you are playing against the best sides in the world, you cannot afford to get off to starts like that and we were punished.
“We knew what they were going to do and didn’t counteract it. .
“Our middle played great - they worked hard, hung on in there, but unfortunately our edges were horrible.”
This lack of penetrating in a key area was reflected in the fact that Saints’ only two clear cut scoring chance came in the first half but on each occasion centre Mark Percival was denied a try by the intervention of the video referees - leaving them nilled for the first time in front of their own fans since moving to Langtree Park in February 2012 and on the receiving end of the heaviest defeat in the history of the competition.
The writing was on the wall from the opening minutes when, just like Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors in the two earlier world series games against the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Brisbane Broncos respectively, Saints, too, conceded an early
They were undone by an astute grubber kick from inventive scrum half Adam Reynolds which allowed second rower Glenn Stewart to pounce.
Reynolds landed the goal - the first of five successful attempts - and then eased the Aussies into an 8-0 lead via an eight minute penalty.
As well as Percival, both winger Adam Swift and substitute Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrick came within sight of the whitewash but Saints’ spirited response proved in vain as the Bunnies moved into cruise control, scoring three more eye-catching tries in the final 20 minutes of the half through Dylan Walker, full back Greg Inglis and winger Joel Reddy.
Saints had little to play for other than their pride as they emerged in the second half trailing 24-0 but were soon chasing shadows again as the Aussies went on to wrap up a comprehensive victory as a result of further tries from stand off Luke Keary, substitute Chris McQueen and a second from Reddy.
And just to add insult to injury the outstanding, Reynold slotted over a 78th minute field goal to end Saints’ night of
Referee: Richard Silverwood.