We didn’t expect anything else, did we?
Ten years after Kieron Cunningham’s try in the last minute at the HJ and Sean Long’s late drop goal at Knowley Road, Saints are still breaking Wire hearts late in games.
The on-field personnel may have changed, but if Saints value one thing as a club it is stability and repetition and both former tormentors are now on the coaching staff, overseeing another last gasp victory over Warrington.
It was a typical St Helens try in every conceivable way: with the clock ticking down and the scores level, Wire rushed up to pressure Burns on the fourth tackle inside their own half, but the Australian stepped back inside and slipped an offload to compatriot Quinlan who raced down field before looking for a pass of his own. The ball was touched by a Wire defender and the tackle count was wiped back to zero, but Saints either didn’t notice or didn’t care as they shifted the ball from right to left for Jordan Turner to eventually drop the shoulder and dive over to win the game. The bastard.
Wire seemingly began the game with the intent of blowing Saints away early on, carving out a couple of chances from the field position earned from the intensity of the pack.
However, a couple of mistakes near our own line swung the momentum Saints’ way and James Roby scored a very Cunningham-esque try when he barged over from dummy half to open the scoring for the visitors on the quarter hour mark. James Child gave the try without referring to the screen, despite doubts over the grounding of the ball.
Such was the intensity of Wire’s early play – particularly in defence – that Saints extended their lead moments later with a penalty goal from bang in front of the sticks. How often do you see them going for goal?
Despite having a fairly even share of the territory and possession, Wire struggled to convert pressure into points and the same old problems with creativity from our pivots reared its head as Clark, Myler and O’Brien generally ran around without much of a clue what to and their runners even less of a clue what to expect.
To compound things, Matty Russell continued to further diminish the quality of his own highlights package by continuously being out of position in defence and offering nothing constructive as the third pair of hands in a spread attack.
All the while, Stefan Ratchford was stood out in the centres wondering what he’d done to piss Tony Smith off so much. He is our most creative ball handler and needs to be in the pivots. Russell wouldn’t look so bad at centre or on the wing in fairness to him. He is quick and a very game runner, he just appears to lack any real rugby intellect and the ability to actually pass the ball.
Such was the ineptitude in our attacking structures, Brad Dwyer was introduced halfway through the first period rather than just before – or after – half-time as is customary. He almost had a rather quick impact on proceedings; his speed and vision from dummy half and willingness to take the line on make him a very dangerous player.
As the half hour mark approached, the ball was spread wide but Atkins’ attempted pass to Ormbsy – in acres of space. Acres of it! – was a shocker and another chance was bombed. Then moments later, the busy Dwyer thought he had put Anthony England over for a try but his pass a good yard forward.
Wire did manage to respond just before the break, when at last a back-line spread stuck with some fluidity and Dwyer, Myler and O’Brien combined before the latter slipped a short ball to the marauding Ben Currie who burst through the line and touched down.
It was a signal of what could happen when things come off – both half backs are very capable players with all the attributes required to play the position at the top level, they just need to realise when to use them. It was nice to see O’Brien actually pass the ball, for instance, and not seemingly be trying to relive the moment he dummied Benji Marshall and Josh Dugan every five minutes.
Wire began the second half with the same intensity they started – and finished – the first, with the constant pressure in defence forcing Luke Walsh into being caught at Dummy Half on the last tackle deep inside his own half. The short Paul Anderson lookaline threw a couple of dummies and tried to find his winger with a long cut out pass back to the blind side, but it was read perfectly by Kevin Penny – no doubt still haunted by the ‘One Kevin Penny’ chants at Langtree and Knowsley Road – and the effervescent winger raced home to put Wire in the lead for the first – and only – time in the match.
The lead would last only ten minutes, however, and Kieron Cunningham threw on his own game changer and unleashed the beast that is Mose Masoe.
The 22stone Samoan international was destructive in the first half when he was on – his ability to attract attention and niggle around the ruck actually helped them get the penalty that they kicked to take score to 8 – and he was devastating with his first touches in the second half.
Having forced a goal line drop out, Saints fed the big prop from the restart and his initial barnstorming hit up made a good 30 metres before he was halted. Having played the ball, he immediately lined up for the next drive and he hit Roby’s ball to burst through the line and run over Russell to score in front of the massed ranks of Sintellins fans who had made the short trip from Sankey.
Wire had hopes of taking the lead on the hour mark when Joe Philbin seemed to crash over the line, but video replays showed that eventual match-winner Turner had knocked the ball out of his grasp before he could touch down.
We were over the line again when Atkins collected Myler’s kick to the corner but he was denied by some desperate ‘Tellins defence. The video referee ruled that the ball had been stolen by said defenders, though only a penalty and not a penalty try was given, even though it’s common sense to suggest that had the ball not been ripped out, the former Wakefield centre would have touched down for four points.
As it was, hopes of finally doing them with a last minute drop goal grew when O’Brien nudged over the resulting penalty goal.
But it wasn’t to be and, just like they have all those times in the past, shades of Cunningham’s crash over the line, shades even of the ‘wide to West’ try against Bradford, the bastards in the Red V pipped us at the hooter despite all the chances we had to win the fucker.
Just. Fuck. Off.