Youthful exuberance and no shortage of skill was one of the key factors behind Saints’ thrill-a-minute 19-12 victory over Hull FC at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night.
Sponsor’s man of the match Theo Fages (22) and Danny Richardson (20) linked up at half-back for the first time since the opening three games of Betfred Super League XXII and at times it seemed as though their partnership had been in situ all season.
Sceptics had questioned pre-match whether they could out-smart and out-manoeuvre the more street-wise Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd, both 26 ,and between them much greater Super League experience.
But the Saints’ duo answered in the affirmative - Fages’ inventive play carving out two crucial second-half tries and Richardson capping a fine all-round 80 minutes by staying as cool as a cumber as he landed a late drop goal to give the hosts a match-winning seven point cushion.
It was no more than St Helens deserved after a tough and bruising encounter in which neither side took any prisoners. Light rain also made the ball as slippy as a bar of soap but resultant handling errors only generated extra spice and excitement, as well as the unpredictability of the final outcome.
Fages and Richardson were not the only players to stamp their mark in what was only Saints fourth win over the Humbersiders in the last 11 outings.
Everyone contributed and some of the bone-crunching tackles among the forwards had the fans in the near 10,000-strong crowd wincing at time.
There was also one or two moments of magic - and none better than
Mark Percival’s remarkable touchdown in the left-hand corner which gave Saints breathing space before Richardson’s crucial 76th minute drop goal sealed the points
There have been more than a fair share of acrobatic touch downs this season, especially out wide, and Percival’s was up there with the best.
It helped the centre to take his individual match points to 14 - two tries and three goals from four attempts - and without question he must have been close behind Fages in a contender for the sponsor’s player of the match accolade.
Despite their win, which also included hooker James Roby’s fourth try of the campaign, Saints still remain sixth in the table but with victory over fourth-placed Hull and fifth-placed Wakefield Trinity’s one-point defeat at home to leaders Cas, they have closed the gap on their rivals, setting the stage for an interesting finale to the regular season.