Brown applauds battling Saints
Nathan Brown expressed great pride in his St Helens side after they came from behind against Leeds Rhinos to claim a 13-12 victory at Headingley and take a significant stride towards claiming the League Leaders' Shield.
It was a result which took Saints to the brink of securing Super League's top spot as they now hold a five-point advantage at the summit, with only Castleford Tigers able to catch them.
The Rhinos entered Round 25 of Super League in buoyant spirits after claiming lifting the Tetley's Challenge Cup after beating the Tigers at Wembley last Saturday, but were brought crashing back down to earth on home soil.
A late drop-goal from Lance Hohaia sealed victory for Saints after tries from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and James Roby had helped the visitors recover from 12-2 down in the second half.
Leeds were reduced to 12 men in the 20th minute after Joel Moon was shown a straight red card for a shoulder charge on Mark Percival, but still managed to amass a reasonable half-time lead courtesy of a Liam Sutcliffe try and four Kevin Sinfield goals.
"I'm really proud of the guys," Brown told Sky Sports. "It was a tough game. Obviously people are going to talk about the 12 men they had but in the first half we had to do a lot of defence on our line but we hung in well for each other.
"In the second half our attacking kind of got going but they put us under a lot of pressure and we folded a little bit.
"We did eventually come up some much better attacking play and were fortunate enough to come away with the win, but I'm really proud of the guys.
"As I say, people will talk about Leeds having 12 men but I know how great the players are they had on the field and what we had to do to get by."
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott was quick to quash talk of a cup final hangover and believes referee Richard Silverwood's decision to brandish a red card for Moon's charge proved to be the game's turning point.
"Credit to Saints, it was a tough game that," McDermott reflected. "Saints did what they had to and obviously the sending off was a huge part of the game.
"It's a shame when it has an effect on games like that. Without commenting on the incident itself, I thought that was the difference between the two teams.
"I didn't have to do too much to pick the boys up from the Challenge Cup win because they're just a grand set of players, they're a pleasure to coach and as soon as that silverware was awarded we turned our attention to Saints."
Although visibly distraught by the result, McDermott did take heart from the performance of Sutcliffe. After spending the start of the season on loan with Bradford Bulls, the 19-year-old has returned to Headingley and fulfilled his potential.
"Sutcliffe is a good player, he's been playing first team for a few years now and has shown again how worthy he is of playing in the first team with us," he added.
But Sutcliffe dismissed such praise, claiming: "I would have taken a win over a good personal performance any day.
"We had prepared all week for this game and we knew it was going to be tough, we set ourselves the target of winning the last three games and finishing top but it just wasn't to be tonight."