Huddersfield 19 St Helens 16: March breaks Saints' stride

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The Independent Online

St Helens' dream of going through the Super League season unbeaten was subjected to a rude awakening by an inspired Huddersfield side.

Saints were looking for a 13th straight win, for a club record, and the Giants had lost their last five, but towering performances from Brad Drew, Paul March and Robbie Paul made Huddersfield worthy winners.

"We were beaten by a better team, more enthusiastic and more committed,'' said Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson. "You rest players not to show disrespect to the opposition, but because you see the warning signs that they might need to be freshened up," he added. "Sean Long not playing wasn't the reason we lost the game.''

Even without Long and Jamie Lyon Saints looked good when Matty Smith, making his full debut, put the Giants under pressure with a 40-20 kick. The hosts took the lead with the only try of the first half, however, Paul and Drew moving the ball and March's pass allowing Michael de Vere to slip past Scott Moore.

The Australian Test centre has not always lived up to his billing at Huddersfield, but this was one of his better moments and he added the goal.

Saints brought on Leon Pryce and Keiron Cunningham but they were still well below par, which was reflected in Paul Sculthorpe's decision to kick for goal, successfully, at the start of the second half. Five minutes later, Saints were ahead when Pryce charged down Drew's kick and supplied the pass to Willie Talau. Sculthorpe kicked the goal.

Huddersfield levelled when Paul's break ended with Moore's high tackle on Paul Reilly, and De Vere kicked the goal. The Giants could then have scored through James Evans before Drew and March sent Stuart Donlan in.

De Vere's conversion was cancelled out by Sculthorpe, but Huddersfield clinched the win when March kicked through and followed the ricocheting ball to touch down. Drew added a drop goal before James Graham's try set up a tense finale.

"They are a fantastic team, the best side in the competition at the moment and to beat them you've got to be at your very best," said Huddersfield's coach, Jon Sharp.

Huddersfield: Reilly; Aspinwall, Evans, De Vere, Donlan; March, Paul; Mason, Drew, Gannon, Smith, Raleigh, Jones. Substitutes used: Crabtree, Jackson, McDonald, Gardner.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, V Anderson, Talau, Meli; Moore, Smith; Fozzard, Roby, Graham, Wilkin, Sculthorpe, Hooper. Substitutes used: Pryce, Cunningham, P Anderson, Fa'asavalu.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).