Three weeks ago, the Saints were handed a massive lesson in attitude and how to play rugby by todays vistors, Shevington Sharks. But with a great Easter training session and a new desire, and focus, the Saints had set the stall to erase the memory of the nightmare in Wigan, weeks previous. With injured players now making a welcomed return, the squad is getting back to nearly a full compliment.
A bright, but cold morning welcomed both teams, and with experienced Super League official, Tony Martin in charge of the fixture, both teams knew that the game would be officated in a professional manner. It was great to debutant, Jay Cooper make his first game for the Saints, and everyone was looking forward to what this Crompton House centre could bring to the team.
It was the Wigan outfit to kick off, and the Saints took charge of possesion. With the forwards, Keenan Fraser
and Luke Kumeta
making great inroads into the Sharks defence, halves Robert Charles
and Sam Hall
dictated play and took the Saints around the park with ease, and grace. A good kick in play saw Saints defend, and with some great defence coming in from Lewis Wighton-Turner
, Sean Cosgrove
and Adam Goodwin
saw the Sharks struggle to get momentum. And on the fifth tackle, the Saints forced the Sharks to spill the ball. With the platform set, Sam Hall
took the ball the defence and a split ball saw centre, Lewis Croft
take the ball at pace, and the classy centre hit the accelerator and took his opposite number on the outside. Instead of taking the easy route to keep possesion and come infield, Lewis Croft
pinned his ears back and headed for the corner to register the opening points of the half. 4-0.
A great score, meant that the Saints had to defend, and defend well, as the Sharks are a potent outfit. Jay Cooper, Joe Harris
, Keenan Fraser
again made some great tackles, but it was weak tackling on the Saints right that saw Shevington to score a try in the corner. 4-4.
Not to be outdone, the Saints regrouped and attacked from the restart. With the forwards, Keenan Fraser
, Sean Cosgrove
, Luke Kumeta
, Joe Harris
running wide of the ruck, and making good yards, it came to Sam Hall
on the fifth tackle. The standoff put in a towering kick which the Sharks fullback allowed to bounce. Scrum Half, Robert Charles
fly kicked around the fullback, and kicked on again into the ingoal area and touch down in the footrace to the ball. The offical ruled out the try, and the Sharks had to drop out. A sigh of relief for the vistors.
As the Saints mounted more pressure, the Saints did look good with ball in hand, and with centre Lewis Croft
releasing David Taylor
up field, it made good field postion for the Saints to turn the thumbscrews. Prop Billy Travis
contiuned to impress with some strong powerful runs into the heart of the defence, but all credit to the Wigan sides defence, they held firm.
It was weak tackling in the centre of the field that allowed the Sharks to hit the front as the second rower ran 40m to score underneath the posts. 4-10.
From the restart, the Saints attacked again, and with hooker Adam Goodwin
making some great plays from the dummy half, the Saints looked a class act with ball in hand, and fullback Ellis Rogers
continued to impress with many strong, elusive runs into Shevington half of the field. But gain, a lapse in concentraction in the middle saw a repeat of the second try, and another score conceded underneath the sticks. 4-16.
Normally, heads start to go down, and arguing starts, but this was different, the team gelled, pulled up their sleeves and got on with it. And tried to get back into the game. Another try conceded before half time took the score to 4-22.
At hald time, the next score would be crucial, and it took something special to break the Sharks defence. As the Saints mounted an attack stand off Sam Hall
shruggred a defender off and offloaded to the supporting Robert Charles
. The scrum half, delayed the pass and went through the gap, and put a split pass to the rampaging Keenan Fraser
who ran like a freight train, and showed great power, pace and flair to score in the right hand corner. 8-22. Game on.
From the restart, the Saints defended well, especially Callum Jones who is a cornerstone in defenc, forced the turnover, and then applied the pressure themeselves. With great pressure by Lewis Wighton-Turner
who got more into the game in the second half showed what a threat he is to any side. The Saints centre field infront of the Sharks posts on the last tackle, saw Robert Charles
put in a poor kick, and poor chase, and the Shevington fullback collected the ball superbly and ran 70m unopposed. It took a blinding chase and tackle by the impressive Lewis Croft
to make a try saving tackle inside the Saints 20m zone. With the Saints at sixes and sevens, the Sharks crossed for another try. 8-28.
Team spirit at this stage was oozing out of the pores from the home side, and with strong runs by loose forward Sean Cosgrove
, debutant centre, Jay Cooper and the Saints answer to Mal Meninga, Lewis Wighton-Turner
, all credit to the Wigan outfit for being spot on with their defence. The Sharks added two more tries to finish the day off winning 8-38.
All in all a great game from both sides, but a scoreline that flattered the visitors. But what was the most pleasing aspect that the team bonded and played as a team - and that will take us to places the team has bever been - long may it continue. Well done.