Rugby League: Saints slated by Wigan's onslaught

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The Independent Online
Peter Aspinall

Wigan 46 St Helens 2

The word on the terraces at Central Park yesterday suggested that many St Helens fans had boycotted this festive friendly because their side was so weak. The evidence out on the paddock rather proved that their decision was based on common sense as Wigan ran in 10 tries and conceded none.

The St Helens team - basically an Academy outfit containing 11 teenagers - was missing 13 regular senior players, including Chris Joynt, Bobbie Goulding as well as their new pounds 350,000 record signing, Paul Sculthorpe.

Wigan, in stark contrast, were parading two new signings, the Australians Mark Bell and Tony Mestrov, and while they also lacked a handful of notable pedigree players - Tony Smith and Denis Betts to name but two - the gulf in class became apparent very quickly.

After Wigan had two tries disallowed, Jon Clarke rounding off a splendid 80m surge from Jason Robinson. Henry Paul added another try when he glided through some fragile defence and while the Saints scrum-half, Paul Wellens, knocked over a penalty Wigan were soon back in the danger zone, Andy Farrell slipping his marker at the scrum before putting Craig Murdock over on the stroke of half-time.

The second half began with four tries in the opening 10 minutes - two for Robinson, with Kris Radlinski and Gary Connolly the other scorers. Danny Ellison and Lee Gilmour crossed for a further brace as Saints wilted, Ellison grabbing another following tremendous approach work from the prop Neil Cowie.

Saints' stand-in captain, Anthony Sullivan, tried valiantly to motivate his players but the game had been out of St Helens' grasp ever since the teams were read out.

The game represented a welcome return to Wigan for the new coach John Monie, who took over six weeks ago, while the 20-year-old winger, Rob Smyth, was playing his first game for 17 months.

Wigan: Radlinski; Robinson, Connolly, Bell, Ellison; Paul, Murdock; Cowie, Clarke, Hansen, Haughton, Holgate, Farrell. Substitutes: Mestrov, Tallec, Hall, Cardiss, Gilmour, Smyth.

St Helens: Johnson; Stuart, Haig, Cross, Sullivan; Barrow, Wellens; Latham, Anderson, O'Neil, Pickavance, Perelini, Hammond. Substitutes: Newal, Hamilton, Arkwright, Price, Newall, Pimblett.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

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