McDermott largely kept faith with the side that lost 18-14 to Melbourne Storm and he was rewarded with the Rhinos' first away win over Saints since 2008. The Rhinos also had to overcome disruption to their preparations after being forced to take a detour across the Pennines when the M62 was closed by a jack-knifed lorry.
"We had a fair amount of adversity with the motorway being shut. We only got the right kit on five minutes before the kick-off," McDermott said.
"On the back of last week, when we put a lot of energy - emotionally and physically - into the Melbourne game. The question was always going to be whether we could get up again but we did and it was very pleasing.
"In fairness, Saints had one or two fellas missing but it was always going to come down to how much energy we had in that game and it shows some character there."
England winger Ryan Hall scored two tries and played a key role in the other scored by prop Kylie Leuluai, but their early points came from the boot of skipper Kevin Sinfield, who put over two penalties to take his run of goalkicking successes to 41 before failing to convert Hall's first try.
"I thought it was good call from Kev," said McDermott. "We needed some time on the field to settle us down."
Saints took the lead with a try from Jonny Lomax but they trailed 20-4 until 18-year-old centre Mark Percival capped an impressive debut by carving out late scores for winger Francis Meli. The defeat leaves St Helens still looking for a first home win under coach Nathan Brown but he was able to draw on the positives.
"We had four young kids out there who had eight or nine games between them and they handled themselves well," he said. "We also had a new half-back and full-back and we lost our five-eighth to injury.
"It's going to get a lot better, I'm very confident of that. After our first game, we've got a lot better each week and there were periods when we did pretty well against the best team in the comp. We got beat by a good side but we scored three tries apiece so weren't a long way away. I thought the better side won the game but the young guys got a bit more experience."
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