Yates’ verdict: Saints showed character and resilience in France

Justin Holbrook
Justin Holbrook
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Saints’ long-term future is in safe hands. Fielding 10 players under the age of 25 and resting influential skipper James Roby and Super League’s top try scorer Ben Barba, they more or less wrapped up the League Leaders’ Shield after a last-gasp victory over the Catalans Dragons - their Challenge Cup semi-final conquerors - in Pepignan on Saturday night.

Head coach Justin Holbrook took a calculated gamble in making a number of changes for the first time this year and it worked a treat.

Saints had gone into the game with only one win under their belts in the Super 8s and some people questioning whether the bubble was about to burst but they answered the knockers with a show of great character and resilience.

They could so easily have crumbed after being stung by two early tries and then later in the game trailing 22-14, but on both occasions they picked themselves up by their boot laces, typified by Morgan Knowles’ 78th minute match-winning try.

The 21-year-old stand-in hooker’s route to the line looked well policed but by sheer determination he smashed his way over and at the same time emerged from his heroic effort with a facial injury which required heavy bandaging.

Holbrook also acknowledged the part played by the more experienced players, like Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson and Jon Wilkin.

“I thought they did a brilliant job and, like all the lads, stepped up to the plate.

“Neither is it easy to get a result in France after getting up early in the morning to catch a flight but I’m more than happy with the outcome.”

The head coach added:: “I thought we fought back well to dominate the last 20 minutes of the first half after trailing 10-0 and were unlucky not to lead more than 14-12.

“The second half panned out the same as the first and we had to show a lot of character.”

MATCH FACTS

Dragons tries: Mead (8 mins), Casty (12), Thornley (45), Edwards (52).

Goals: Drinkwater (3/5).

Saints tries: Percival (17), Fages (31), Lomax (71), Knowles (78).

Goals: Richardson (5/5).

Half-time: 12-14.

Full-time: 22-26.

Referee: Liam Moore.

Teams - Dragons: 31. Tony Gigot; 20. Lewis Tierney, 1. David Mead, 4. Brayden Wiliame, 3. Iain Thornley; 6. Samisoni Langi, 33. Josh Drinkwater; 15. Mikael Simon, 19. Michael McIlorum, 10. Sam Moa, 34. Kenny Edwards, 13. Greg Bird, 8. Rémi Casty. Subs: 14. Julian Bousquet, 17. Jason Baitieri, 24. Alrix Da Costa, 32. Mickael Goudemand.

Saints:1. Jonny Lomax; 2. Tommy Makinson, 30. Matty Costello, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 6. Theo Fages, 18. Danny Richardson; 16. Luke Thompson, 15. Morgan Knowles, 10. Kyle Amor, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin. Subs: 14. Luke Douglas, 20. Matty Lees, 21. Jack Ashworth, 25. Aaron Smith.