Beginning their Premiership Rugby A League title defence campaign last night with a trip to Sale Jets, the Wanderers got their season off to a perfect start by collecting the full league point quota on the road.
Phil Dowson was pleased with his side’s performance up in Manchester, commending the younger Saints, who lined up with some of the club’s biggest stars as well as some of the summer signings, for their stand out performances in what were very wet and very windy conditions.
“It was good,” Dowson commented simply after the game.
“I thought the defensive efforts from all the players were outstanding and I thought a lot of the younger guys put their hand up.
“I think after a disappointing Saturday it was really good to get the win on a wet Monday night up in Sale. So I was really pleased with the effort.
“Before the game I asked for energy and a bit of physicality and they bought that in spades. There were obviously some mistakes and things we can do better but all in all I was really pleased with the desire and just the pure bloody-mindedness of the side.”
Stepping into the breach to lead the Wanderers for the first time this season, Dowson said that it was a learning curve for him to coach the side but that it provided him with a good opportunity to see what the younger members of Saints’ squad have to offer.
“I was ably assisted tonight by Paul Diggin and Simon Sinclair but it was a good learning curve for me to see what it’s like on the other side. I do miss playing but you get to see the other side now.
“There’s guys, like Paddy Ryan, who’ve come into the Academy. Paddy played 35/40 minutes for Leicester Lions on Saturday up here in Sale and he’s come up here again two days later and he’s knocked out 75 minutes so I’m delighted for people like him and to see what he’s capable of. I thought he was outstanding tonight.”
Despite sending what could possibly be one of the most internationally capped Wanderers sides ever, with George North, Rob Horne and Cobus Reinach all lining up for Saints’ second side, Dowson said that the team was never reliant on those well-known faces and still wanted the younger players to step up.
“The team was only strong on paper. We had to make sure that we put that into practice and that we made the actions speak louder than and of the preamble of how strong a side we’d put out.
“Sale fought hard; they’d have seen all the players like George [North] and JP [Estelles] and internationals like Cobus [Reinach] and the rest of the international boys lining up. But they really wanted to have a crack and take a scalp.
“I thought we played really well first half, we were very strong especially towards the end of the first half. We did drift off a bit discipline wise but we always looked in control. Jamal [Ford-Robinson] scrummaging in the front row with Charlie Clare was very good was Fracois [Van Wyk] and Sam Dickinson lead outstandingly well.”
Speaking of Saints’ new additions, Horne and Reinach, Dowson said:
“Horne’s a class act. Obviously you don’t get that many caps for Australia without knowing what you’re doing. He’s a tough runner but very skilful, and he’s a good leader. He hasn’t said a huge amount, he’s still sort of getting to grips with the system, but you can just tell that he’s a class act.
“Again, he’s very good,” the former Saint said of Reinach, “It’s difficult when you’re in a play-making position when you don’t know many people and you haven’t been here very long but I thought he looked sharp. I thought Tom Kessell looked sharp too when he came on and that gives us options at scrum half too.”