St Helens and Huddersfield Giants took advantage of not being involved in the Challenge Cup final to play their postponed round one fixture which wasn´t played to allow Saints to travel to Australia and become World Club Champions.
A win for St Helens by six or more points would lift them above yesterday’s Challenge Cup winners Leigh Leopards and into third spot, but a win for the Giants would benefit them more as if they could register a victory by twenty points or more, then they would move up to seventh spot and the fringes of the play off places, a win of any margin would see them into eighth.
Saints were the favourites with the bookies, and it was the Giants who were given an eight-point start on the coupon for the Sunday tea-time kick off.
Tee Ritson left the field in the opening minutes after receiving on field attention, the Saints forced to rejig their backs. Soon after the restart Tommy Makinson outfoxed the Giants defence and muscled his way over the line to score in the corner. Mark Percival kicked the touchline conversion from a difficult position for a 6-0 lead.
Makinson was over for his second within three minutes as he took a Jack Welsby miss out pass to bamboozle the Giants defence for a simple second, improving the angle for Percival to kick a second goal.
Matty English was sin-binned on eighteen minutes for an attack to the knee, the Giants making it even worse for themselves after a poor opening.
Another penalty for backchat from Jake Connor saw Percival drill another kick between the uprights for a 14-0 lead.
On twenty-eight Joe Greenwood lead with the elbow on Matty Lees, which saw referee Ben Thaler brandish the red card, the visitors down to twelve and in all sorts of trouble.
Great Saints defence kept Ashton Golding out on the half hour mark, putting the Giants winger into touch.
McQueen went close on thirty-five as the twelve men started to make some headway. On the last tackle a leaping Sam Halsall caught a Jake Connor kick and passed inside to Matty English to ground by the left hand upright. Against the odds the Giants were back in the game. Matty Russell added the conversion, and the Saints lead was back to eight points.
Seconds from the half time hooter Jack Welsby found the pass to Makinson to cross for his hat-trick, and two hundredth career try, to quash any thoughts of a Giants fightback. Percival was wide with his conversion as the sides headed for the sheds.
More indiscipline cost the Giants at the start of the second half when a penalty for dissent was converted by Percival, his fourth goal of the afternoon.
Good defence on the hour prevented Ritson from crossing in the corner as the Saints winger was pushed into touch by Connor when he really should have scored to put the game out of the reach of the Giants.
The twelve me were in again on sixty-two after a perfectly timed run from Connor who found Ashton Golding to go over for a four pointer. Connor took the kick and sailed the ball between the uprights for 20-12 and seventeen minutes remaining.
Connor was again the provider, but Kevin Naiqama did all the leg work as he took the pass and made the inside diagonal run to the posts to wrongfoot Welsby and go in. Connor added the conversion, and the Saints lead was down to just two points with just over ten minutes remaining.
The game was wrapped up on seventy-six when the Giants defence just watched a Lewis Dodd kick which was collected by Sione Mata’utia and chipped ahead for Dodd to chase and dot down. Percival added the conversion for 26-18 and all-important two points for the home side.
In the dying seconds a Dodd kick was collected by Welsby to go in for the fifth try of the game for the Saints, Percival adding the goal for a 32-18 final score.
This was the kind of game which the Saints of old would have put to bed in the first half with their opponents down to twelve men, but the new Saints are struggling to find any consistency in a season which has been a big disappointment so far. It was a tremendous fightback from the Giants to get within striking distance with ten minutes to go but in the end, defensive lapses allowed Saints to score the crucial and winning tries.
St Helens: Welsby (T), Makinson (3T), Percival (6G), Davies, Ritson, Lomax, Dodd (T), Delaney, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Royle, Knowles. Subs: Batchelor, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Norman, Mbye. 18th Man: Baxter.
Huddersfield Giants: Connor (2G), Halsall, Bibby, Naiqama (T), Golding (T), Russell (G), Lolohea, Hill, Milner, Wilson Cudjoe, McQueen, English (T, SB on 18). Subs: Peats, Greenwood (SO on 28), Hewitt, Ikahihifo. 18th Man: Marsters.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, (SB), 14-0, (SO), 14-4, 14-6, 18-6 : HT: 20-6, 20-10, 20-12, 20-16, 20-18, 24-18, 26-18, 30-18, 32-18 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: St Helens.
Referee: Ben Thaler.