Yates’ verdict: Saints sizzle in the sun

James Roby and Mose Masoe in action against Castleford
James Roby and Mose Masoe in action against Castleford

Sizzling Saints produced a red-hot performance at sun-kissed Langtree Park on Sunday to temporarily silence their critics.

They are those who still have to be convinced that the table-toppers are genuine contenders for the Super League crown.

But as temperatures soared into the early 20s, a shirt-sleeved crowd revelled in the five-star entertainment served up by two top four protagonists determined to enhance their title aspirations.

Saints, who had won the previous 12 encounters between the two clubs, triumphed on the strength of their clinical execution of try-scoring opportunities and a superb first- half rearguard action and while a flattering 22-4 interval lead put them virtually in the comfort zone had the scoreline at that stage been reversed no one could have argued.

But coach Nathan Brown’s boys - still smarting from the 42-0 drubbing they suffered eight days earlier against the Catalan Dragon - had a point to prove and responded in emphatic fashion by posting three more second half tries to wrap up the points, even though Cas replied with two of their own late on to add a little respectability to the final outcome.

In the, end the scoreline suggested it had been a comfortable victory but nothing could be further from the truth Saints had to work their socks off to overcome the spirited challenge of a side which has taken the competition by storm and worthy of a top four spot, particularly in a rip-roaring, end-to-end, opening 40 minutes that had both sets of fans on tenterhooks.

During this period they were given one of their sternest examinations of the season but unlike the previous week in France when they collapsed like a detonated factory chimney emerged with flying colours thanks to some defiant last-ditch tackling and superb scrambling defence.

It also acted as a massive tonic to play makers Lance Hohaia, Luke Walsh and James Roby who were able to parade their wide range of skills at the other end of the park, particularly in a Saints’ dominated second when their speed of thought, off-the-cuff handling and telephatic understanding was a joy to watch Tom Makinson, who had scored seven tries in the four previous meetings between the club, added to his tally within minutes of the kick-off, setting the tone for the rest of the match.

It followed a slick break and off load by second-rower Mark Flanagan which allowed the right winer to crash over or his 17 try of the season.

Jordan Turner’s ankle tap on winger James Clare and a couple of spillages

thwarted Castleford’s initial response but their pressure was eventualy reward after 21 minutes when a midfield burst from substitute Frankie Mariano paved the way for winger Kirk Dixon to level matter.

Where the next try was coming from was anyone’s guess as the battle for supremacy intensified - but then Wellens stepped up to provide answer - putting the finishing touches to a breath-taking 25th minute move.

The skipper, returning to his favourite full back role following a season-ending injury to Jonny Lomax, stormed on to an inside pass after deft handling skills from Walsh and Hohaia beiore side-steppin Luke Dorn to score.

Walsh landed his first goal and on the half hour mark slotted over his second after Jordan Turner had cashed-in on neat appoach work from Roby and Walsh.

Saintsnow had the bit between their teeth and grabbed a fourth try at the perfect time - 60 seconds before the interval.

Once again it was claimed by the ever-alert Wellens who couldn’t believe his luck

when, following a Walsh kick to the right-hand corner, Cas left winger James Clare suffered what can best be described as a brainstorm - releasing the ball straight into Wellens’ hands and leaving the full back an asy try.

Walsh’s third goal took the half-time score to 22-4 and within six minutes of the restart Saints had moved further ahead courtes of a

rather fortuitious Mark Percival try.

Amid almost incessant home pressure, the centre was lucky enouh to seize on his own kick ahead which balloned off Daryl Clark and crash over the whitewash, leaving Walsh a relatively easy kick.

The Aussie ace then turned tryscorer after hacking on a loose ball before Sia Soliola carved out an opening for Percival’s second try after 66 minutes.

By now the Tigers looked to be buling at the knees, but to their eternal credit hit back with tries from stand-off Marc Sneyd (73 mins) and full back Luke Dorn (75 mins) and a couple of Sneyd goals.

But it was Saints - and Walsh in particular - who had the final say just as the hooter sounded - the Aussie slotting over a penalty.

The result sent the vast majority of fans home in a happy mood but with one thought on their mind: Which Sants team will turn up at the DW Stadium on Friday night.

We’ll just have to wait and see !