|7th Apr 2006|| Super League||HOME||9520||HT:6-10|
|Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 26. - ** non-playing sub|
MATCH REPORT : Saints demonstrated they are not just fair-weather footballers with their eighth Super League win of the season in atrocious conditions against Harlequins RL.
Although the conditions severely hampered the attacking ambitions of both teams, Saints once again called upon their tight defence to ensure that, while they weren’t able to secure the win until James Graham crashed over in the 70th minute, they were rarely under pressure.
They have now conceded just three tries in the last three matches, and fifteen tries in Super League XI, which provides a solid base for nights like tonight when the attack doesn’t quite spark.
Unsurprisingly, three of the game’s four tries were scored before the heavy rain set in.
Ade Gardner scored his fiftieth Saints try after five minutes when Paul Sculthorpe and Willie Talau combined from the base of the scrum before Jamie Lyon applied the coup de grace to set the winger free for his ninth try of the season.
Harlequins responded and scored from their first real attack, when the impressive Mark McLinden burrowed over after Saints had surrendered possession in their own half. Matt Gafa’s conversion edged the visitors ahead.
One of the game’s few moments of quality restored Saints four-point advantage when Sean Long produced a delightful, shallow chip kick over the defensive line, which he collected before releasing Paul Wellens with a flick pass. Saints’ full-back raced to the line for his 100th career try, ninety-three of which have come in Saints’ colours.
As the rain lashed down it became increasingly difficult to control the football, although both sides were occasionally guilty of poor decision-making which created unnecessary pressure.
The deluge continued throughout the second half, as the game settled into a dour arm-wrestle between the twenty-metre lines. However while the play was more earnest than inspired, with the score remaining at 10-6 the game remained in the balance.
In fact Harlequins should’ve taken the lead on 58 minutes when McLinden kicked to the left wing, Tony Clubb hacked the ball forward and in-field, only for Lee Hopkins to spill the ball with the line at his mercy.
It was to be their last clear opportunity, and their cause was not helped when McLinden left the field of play suffering from the onset of hypothermia, as he felt the effects of the wet, blustery night.
With ten minutes left, and the crowd becoming increasingly nervous, James Graham caught the Harlequins defence cold as he steamed onto Cunningham’s reverse pass to clinch a hard-fought, but deserved victory.
Saints: Paul Wellens, Ade Gardner, Jamie Lyon, Willie Talau, Francis Meli, Leon Pryce, Sean Long, Paul Anderson, Keiron Cunningham, Nick Fozzard, Lee Gilmour, Paul Sculthorpe, Jason Hooper.
Subs: James Roby, Jon Wilkin, James Graham, Maurie Fa’asavalu.
T: Gardner, Wellens, Graham.
G: Lyon (2/3).
Harlequins RL: Mark McLinden, Tony Clubb, Matt Gafa, Tyrone Smith, Nick Bradley-Qalilwa, Luke Dorn, Thomas Leuluai, Mark Tookey, Pat Weisner, Daniel Heckenberg, Danny Williams, Lee Hopkins, Joe Mbu.
Subs: David Mills, Neil Budworth, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Rikki Sheriffe.
G: Gafa (1/1).
Referee: R Laughton
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