Time to throw the baby out with the bath water, stop the season now, no point carrying on. Saints have been soundly thrashed by a much better team – and all this after Saints were flawless and we executed every play to perfection. Well with more knee jerks than a reflexology clinic, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is how Friday nights’ game went, especially if you look at social media. (The same social media that has opposition fans claiming we thought we were as good as NRL teams – the mind boggles at the lack of a thought process in that.)
So, in the cold light of a Saturday morning after the Saints first defeat of the season let’s actually reflect on what happened.
Scapegoat number 1. The main cause of us losing. Absolutely bonkers decisions. Keeping Leeds in it to keep the league tight.
During the game I described some of Mr. Child’s calls as a series of inexplicable decisions. I’m not as close to the play as James, and I’m not a qualified official either. And I’ll stand by the fact that from up to 150 yards away, I didn’t understand some of his decisions – not least the penalty Saints got in front of the Leeds try line for an incorrect play the ball. If that’s going to be a penalty then we’re never going to get past the 2nd tackle in most sets. However, to blame the referee for our defeat is absurd. He’s not the one throwing wild passes out 30m from your own line on the second tackle. He’s not the one dropping the ball after getting both hands to it. He’s not the one missing tackles allowing a try to be scored.
Credit must go to Leeds. Was I impressed by the Champions? Not really, both teams could have played a lot better.
However, the Rhinos played the conditions well, stuck to their game plan and were well marshalled by Richie Myler. They were a niggly team, using all their experience to slow us down and when they did attack there was always a willing runner in support, allowing them to gain easy metres. The most impressive think about Leeds was their mentality. Their bench looked lightweight, and they lost players after HIA’s, but they didn’t allow themselves to wallow in self-pity.
They were clinical when they got their chances, and as ever they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Halves A Job
In his post-match reaction Justin Holbrook remarked “We had some guys doing things that they don’t normally do. They decided to try some other things and do other people’s jobs and it got us in trouble”. The honest and forthright coach has a reputation for man management, but you can imagine a few players are getting the relevant talking to in the game debrief.
On the Redvee TV preview show I commented about how we were always potent because we had the equivalent of 4 half backs on the field in Lomax, Richardson, Barba and Fages. It’s very easy to say ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ – but they haven’t so far. However was Holbrook referring to the returning Jon Wilkin, who took residence at first or second receiver in the first half? We’ve all slipped into old habits at work, and it seemed like Wilkin had gone back to his time at 7, rather than playing his loose forward role. It seemingly stunted the influence Richardson and Lomax had on the game to Saints obvious detriment.
Even when Wilkin went for a rest, it seemed Lomax in particular struggled to impose himself on the game. The ball too often stopped at him, or was slow getting through his hands. Jonny is a great player, and will still be getting used to the stand-off role but, unfortunately, Friday wasn’t his best performance in a red vee. His half back partner Richardson continued his learning curve with a decent performance, showing a glimpse of class in the first half during the set up to Adam Swift’s try. However I’m not sure his kicking game was at its best – the swirling wind around the Totally Wicked Stadium lent itself to testing the Leeds back 3 with some towering bombs as well as grubber kicks, and we probably missed a trick by not trying these. It’s easy for me to pick holes when most of the 17 didn’t play to their potential. Too many errors – knock ons and wayward passes, completing 12 out of 21 sets and a worrying lack of discipline meant Saints put themselves in a difficult situation all night.
Let’s have a bit of positivity though. We’ve lost by 8 against a well drilled Leeds team. We’ve not been thrashed or blown away. We’ve been responsible for our own fate in this game. No doubt the inquest will continue on Redvee.net, the forums and on WA12radio.net Rugby League Show (Monday @ 6pm) until our next game against Hull KR on Friday