Fans support suspended Millward

St Helens 62 York 0
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The Independent Online

Thousands of St Helens supported stayed behind after this routine Challenge Cup victory to protest at the treatment of the man whose shadow hung heavily over proceedings, their absent coach, Ian Millward.

With Millward suspended by the club while they consider disciplinary action against him, the players who have thrived under his coaching concentrated sufficiently on business as usual to make short work of a brave but outclassed National League Two side.

You have to feel sorry for York, their big event of the season so far reduced to the status of a sideshow amid the drama that has unfolded at Saints this week.

Supporters held pictures of Millward aloft and chanted for his reinstatement throughout the match. Whenever there was a lull in the action, it was the cue for a few choruses of that old St Helens favourite, "Sack the board".

It was impossible to find anyone before the match whose sympathies did not lie with Millward, who has brought such success to the club in his five years there, but who now faces the sack over relatively trivial accusations of swearing. "He only said 'f off'," chanted the fans who have enjoyed the five major trophies he has brought them.

Under the circumstances, it was surprising that players who have been caught in the crossfire of a clash of personalities could get their minds on actually playing rugby. On another night, they might have held a few more passes and inflicted even more severe damage on York.

York, top of National League Two, only came close to scoring once, when Lee Patterson almost got to Scott Rhodes's kick in the first half. Against that, Saints went over regularly and with an air of inevitability, Sean Long leading the way with two tries and seven goals. Ian Hardman and Jason Hooper also managed two apiece, while Paul Anderson was outstanding in an attack that was just too big and strong for part-time opposition.

For once, however, the scoreline was not the main preoccupation for most of Saints' supporters. By the time Hardman went over for their 12th and last try, they were limbering up for the inevitable pro-Millward demonstration. They gave the strong impression that it will not be their last word on the subject.

St Helens: Wellens; Hardman, Albert, Gilmour, Gardner; Hooper, Long; Anderson, Cunningham, Mason, Wilkin, Bennett, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Higham, Edmondson, Fa'asavalu, Graham.

York: Liddell; Blaymire, Potter, Law, Fox; Rhodes, Levy; Smith, Jackson, Sullivan, Callaghan, Kirke, Patterson. Substitutes used: Elston, Ramsden, Bates, Sozi.

Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield).