John Yates gives his verdict on Saints crushing defeat to Warrington during the Magic weekend.
Saints’ performance at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday was like the curate’s egg - good in parts and bad in others.
But the bad bits far outweighed any other aspect of their play which at times hit rock bottom, particularly in an error-riddled and totally forgettable opening 40 minutes.
All four Warrington tries in the first half could be traced back to self-inflicted wounds and had Chris Bridge not left his shooting boots at home - he only landed one goal in this period - shell-shocked Saints would have been virtually dead and buried at the mid-way point.
At least they were able to restore a modicum of pride by a battling second-half showing - inspired by the introduction of skipper Paul Wellens from the substitutes’ bench and the rocket delivered by coach Nathan Brown during the interval.
Brown refused to elaborate on what he had said behind closed doors - but the fact that Saints almost matched the Wolves point for point from then on suggests the message got through.
Too late, however, to alter the course of a game in which Saints blew their chances of regaining top spot in the First Utility Super League after pacesetters Leeds Rhinos had crashed to an 18-14 defeat at the hands of Wigan’s young guns 24 hours earlier.
But how the players react to only their third league defeat of 2014 when fifth-placed Huddersfield Giants visit Langtree Park on Friday night could have a direct bearing on how the second half of the season pans out.
Still searching for their first Magic Weekend win since the switch to the Etihad Stadium in 2012, Saints’ well-documented Achilles heel - conceding silly early tries through an apparent lack of concentration - reared its ugly head again.
A slipshod pass from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook set the tone, allowing Warrington to pick up possession and pave the way for Gene Ormsby to cross in the corner after only seven minutes.
Worse was to follow for Saints as Jonny Lomax’s restart went out on the full and from the resultant penalty the Wire powered forward before Rhys Evans charged over from Trent Waterhouse’s made-to-measure pass.
Saints simply couldn’t get a foothold in the game and when James Roby’s ambitious off-load went astray on half-way it was the prelude to a third Warrington try -Chris Hill sidestepping his way over the whitewash and Bridge landing his one and only first half goal.
A fourth soon followed, even though it was a little fortuitous, after substitute Mose Masoe had been penalised for a dangerous piece of play.
A Bridge grubber kick on the last tackle took a deflection and an unpredictable bounce before arriving in the hands of Stefan Ratchford who sent Evans over for his second try of the half.
The sin-binning of Ormsby in the 35th minute for a professional foul offered Saints a little light at the end of the tunnel and after Matty Dawson had been denied a try following a forward pass they cashed-in one their one-man advantage by cutting the deficit to 18-6 at half-time - Luke Walsh sending Alex Walmsley roaring over between the posts and landing the goal.
But their hopes of an out-of-the-blue comeback were dented by yet another Kamikaze-style piece of play three minutes after the resumption - Lance Hohaia’s misplaced pass setting up an opening from which Evans and Ryan Atkins combined to send the latter over and Bridge landed his second goal.
More questionable defending resulted in a sixth Wolves try as Joel Monaghan brushed aside a challenge from Dawson to plunge over the line and then Matty Russell joined the party by storming 70 metres to complete a three-try burst in just nine minutes.
Bridge took his improving goal kicking tally to four from seven attempts to give the Wire a commanding 36-6 lead and a firm stranglehold on the game.
But Saints showed they weren’t entirely a spent force when Jordan Turner forced his way over and then Wellens’ creative skills unlocked Warrington’s defensive door and allowed Hohaia to scoot over.
A third try of the half from the ever-improving Dawson, in which Wellens again played a prominent role and Walsh continuing his unblemished kicking stint, slashed the arrears to 36-24 with 15 minutes left, turning what earlier had looked mission impossible into a feasible smash-and grab victory.
But a crucial drop goal from Ratchford, which left Saints requiring three more tries to put the cat among the pigeons, calmed growing Warrington
nerves before a breakaway 72nd minute try by Joel Monaghan settled the issue.
Saints: Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Jones, Dawson, Hohaia, Walsh, Walmsley, Roby, Walker, Wilkin, Greenwood, McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Subs: Thompson, Masoe, Soliola, Wellens (all used).
Warrington: Russell, Evans (R.), Monaghan (J.), Atkins, Ormsby, Bridge, Ratchford, Hill,. Monaghan (M.), England, Waterhouse, Westwood, Harrison.
Subs: Higham, Asotasi, Evans (B.), Laithwaite (all used).
Referee: Phil Bentham.