|14th Jul 2006|| Super League||HOME||7950||HT:8-18|
|Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 24. - ** non-playing sub|
MATCH REPORT : A lacklustre performance saw Saints endure some uncomfortable moments as they ground out a 30-24 win against Harlequins, who could find themselves just one point above the relegation zone by Sunday evening.
However Harlequins’ new coach, Brian McDermott, got off to the best possible start when prop Daniel Heckenberg crashed over with just 70 seconds on the clock. Henry Paul converted then added a penalty after Paul Anderson’s high tackle on Zeb Luisi to give the visitors an early 8-0 lead.
Saints got back into the game when James Graham’s grubber was spilt by Mark McLinden behind his own line and Matty Smith, a late replacement for the injured Sean long, scored his first senior try.
It marked the start of a period of pressure for the home side, with captain Keiron Cunningham prominent in most of Saints’ good work. When Saints did take the lead on 28 minutes it was no surprise that it was the hooker who found a gap in the defensive line to touch down.
Things quickly got worse for the visitors: Luisi spilt a routine kick-return ten metres from his own line with Maurie Fa’asavalu on hand to scoop up the loose ball. McLinden stopped the Samoan prop from making any more progress, but held on for too long and was despatched to the sin-bin by referee Phil Bentham.
It was to the visitors’ credit that Saints only scored once during McLinden’s absence, but they were powerless to stop them once Gilmour’s quick 20 metre tap had put the defence on the back foot. Saints rolled irresistibly forward and Jon Wilkin supplied the final pass for Nick Fozzard to go over from close range.
With Harlequins returning to the full complement of 13 at the start of the second half they were able to quickly reduce the deficit to just four points when Tyrone Smith find a way through down the left flank.
However his try was cancelled out almost immediately as James Graham’s powerful run produced his first Saints try for more than two months.
The fans wanted Saints to pile on the points but in the absence of Sean Long, Paul Sculthorpe, Willie Talau and Francis Meli there were too many changes for Saints attacking play to be fluent enough to overwhelm Harlequins, who were in a resilient mood.
After gaining a repeat set on Saints line, Harlequins moved the ball quickly to the right, creating an overlap for Nick Bradley-Qalilwa. Paul couldn’t add the conversion to leave the visitors six points adrift, which made Saints’ decision to run a very kickable penalty minutes later a curious one.
Their confidence was nearly rewarded when first Wellens, then Cunningham, were held up over the line, but they could not find a way through. However Saints were pushing hard and were soon rewarded with Gardner’s 11th try in 10 matches.
Again it was Gilmour who launched the attack from deep, breaking over the halfway line. The ball moved right with Wilkin’s flick pass creating the initiative that was finished off by Jamie Lyon’s basketball pass to Gardner. Although the conversion attempt from the touchline was just out of range, Lyon slotted over a penalty for a twelve-point lead.
McLinden’s late try set up a grandstand finish and Saints needed strong tackles from Lyon and Cunningham to ensure they took both league points and extend their winning run to four matches.
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