Saints clinched their first engage Super League victory of the season at their temporary new home, weathering a brisk start from the Bradford Bulls to claim a convincing 28-16 win.
Both teams came into this round seven clash on the back of convincing victories. Bulls’ coach Mick Potter seeking a win over his former club and Saints’ current coach, Royce Simmons, seeking a first engage Super League win at the club’s temporary home.
The bemusing saga surrounding Bath-bound scrum half, Kyle Eastmond, took another queer turn earlier today with the club announcing that his suspension for serious misconduct was now over. His rude and ill-advised gesturing at the barracking Saints’ crowd during the club’s embarrasing thumping by Quins in Round 5 having earned him a reprimand and a written warning not to repeat such actions.
Given his employers are no strangers to employment litigation, the beleagured half-back would be well advised to either knuckle-down and perform or pull a hammie and sit out the season. Neither the club management nor the fans will take any half-measures.
Indeed, Saints’ will be delighted to have seen Jonny Lomax and Lee Gaskell continuing to shine at halfbacks; especially as Eastmond left the field with an injured shoulder after an hour of the Academy game this evening.
The ‘home’ side welcomed back Sia Soliola and Louie McCarth-Scarbrook (LMS) but hard-working second-rower, Jon Wilkin, again missed out on selection through injury.
The Bulls took an early lead and held the upper hand throughout the opening quarter, led by the prompting of halback Marc Herbert and the powerful running of Jamie Langley; both of whom were instrumental in the opening score. Langley’s powerful break from inside his own quarter set the platform and Herbert’s chip kick from midfield caught the Saints napping, leaving Sean Ainscough an easy run-in for the score, which Fred Ah Van converted.
Despite going close through Chris Flannery and then Tony Puletua the ‘home’ side struggled to break a rugged Bulls defence, with some slack handling spoiling the few chances they did create.
However Jamie Foster was again man of the moment when he scooped-up Paul Wellens bouncing long pass to just dive in at the left corner on 17-minutes.Wellens was on hand to grab Saints’ second score, streaming-in from Lomax’s deft offload as the halfback attacked the blind side and somehow grounding the ball despite the attentions of four defenders.
WIth Paul Sykes in the sin-bin Saints took full advantage scoring tries either side of half time to take a commanding 20-6 lead.
First Saints finished the half on a high when Wellens again stormed over at left centre, with Foster adding a second conversion for a 16-6 lead.
Then the Merseysiders’ continued their offensive in the second half with Foster crossing at the corner for a second try on 44 minutes.
And another incisive break by Lomax into the heart of the Bulls’ 20 enabled Flannery to link-up and round behind the posts for the try; Foster’s conversion making it 26-6.
When Ah Van pulled four points back for the Bulls with a neatly worked try at the left corner on 64 minutes it seemed likely only a consolation effort. But then the sin-bining of Soliola left the shorthanded Saints struggling to hold the suddenly rampant Bulls at bay.
A Foster penalty goal edged the Saints into a 3-converted-try lead on 71-minutes though to steady any faltering nerves.
With Michael Shenton becoming the third player sin-binned in what had hitherto been a far from ill-tempered encounter the closing stages became tetchy to say the least.
And the Bulls had the final say with another Herbert-Ainscough chip kick putting a further six points on the board for the Bulls, wtih Ah Van converting from wide out.
1 Wellens, 2 Gardner, 3 Shenton, 5 Meli, 22 Foster, 25 Gaskell, 20 Lomax, 8 Perry, 9 Roby, 10 Graham, 4 Soliola, 13 Flannery, 11 Puletua
Subs: 15 McCarthy-Scarbrook, 17 Wheeler, 18 Ashurst, 21 Magennis
T: Foster (17, 44) Wellens (22,37), Flannery (48)
G: Foster 4/6
Sin bin: Sia Soliola (64)
3 Sykes, 18 Ainscough, 1 Platt, 25 Royston, 5 Ah Van, 6 Kearney, 7 Herbert, 10 Lynch, 14 Diskin, 15 Hargreaves, 11 Elima, 12 Whitehead, 13 Langley
Subs: 8 Scruton, 9 L’Estrange, 16 Kopczak, 23 Olbison
T: Ainscough (3, 78), Ah Van (63)
G: Ah Van 2/3
Sin bin: Paul Sykes (37)
Ref: Mr R SilverwoodAtt: 7,700
Scoring: 0-6, 4-6, 10-6, 16-6 – ht – 20-6, 26-6, 26-10, 28-10, 28-16