Yates’ verdict: Walsh trickery conjures up much-needed win

Saints Matty Dawson is tackled by London Bronco's James Cunningham and London Bronco's Atelea Vea during the First Utility Super League match at Langtree Park, St Helens.
Saints Matty Dawson is tackled by London Bronco's James Cunningham and London Bronco's Atelea Vea during the First Utility Super League match at Langtree Park, St Helens.
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Saints 48-18 demolition of London has got their season back on course after three successive defeats. Our rugby league writer John Yates gives his assessment of the game.

Saints’ Wizard of Oz turned on the magic to illuminate Langtree Park last Thursday night.

Scrum-half Luke Walsh cast his spell across almost every blade of the playing pitch, conjuring up a nine-try destruction of the brave, spirited but totally outclassed Londoners.

The former Penrith playmaker was at the hub of almost everything positive Saints produced, scoring and setting up tries and banging over six goals from nine attempts, but will be the first to acknowledge the part forwards such as Alex Walmsley and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, facing his old club, played in creating the kind of space the Aussie relishes.

After three defeats on the trot - two in Super League and one in the Challenge Cup - a competent match-winning performance will have done the players’ confidence a power of good, even though they were facing a struggling outfit hurriedly assembled at the beginning of the season and stil trying to find their feet.

Nathan Brown’s boys, however, will still need to tighten-up in defence and show better handling if they are overcome more sterner opposition and will reflect on the fact that they turned off to a degree when conceding the second of the Broncos three tries.

At the same time Brown will have been pleased to see the tries shared among his players - nine different scorers suggesting that all-round team work was one of the key elements in Saints’ ninth win in 11 league outings.

It took the hosts just six minutes to stamp their authority on the game with Matty Dawson cashing-in on Jon Wilkin’s grubber kick and a defensive fumble.

Walsh goaled and four minutes later produced an outrageous dummy to hoodwink the Broncos defence before adding the extras.

Luke Thompson’s clever flicked pass set up the supporting Jonny Lomax for Saints’ third try before Walsh delivered an imperious reverse pass to the darting Lomax - who sent leading scorer Tom Makinson roaring over for his 15th try of the campaign.

London had hardly had a sniff of an opening but cut the deficit to 20-6 in their first meaningful attack - a razor-sharp piece of handling leading to Denny Solomona’s try.

Six minutes later Solomona’s night was ended when he appeared to crash into a metal hoarding behind the sticks. While there was early concern for his welfare, it was later revealed he had suffered no more than a back spasm.

The Londoners were able to keep Saints at bay until the interval but were then blitzed by a five-try burst in the space of 20 second-half minutes.

Once more it was Walsh who led the way by sidestepping his way through the London defence before carving out an opening for fellow half back Lance Hohaia to crash over.

Adam Swift, Joe Greenwood, Josh Jones and Mark Flanagan all added to the Londoners’ misery with Walsh taking his final points tally to 16 and earning the man of the match accolade.

The Broncos second-half points came from tries by Thomas Minns and Mike Bishay with Drinkwater maintaining his 100 per cent kicking record.

Saints, however, will be far from happy at the manner they conceded the Minns try - guilty of ball watching as the centre plucked a towering kick out of the air before racing over unchallenged.

Finally, a word of praise for referee Matthew Thomason.

His handling of the game was so good that you hardly noticed he was there!