Long makes history but falls just short of victory

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The Independent Online

Sean Long wrote another chapter in the annals of St Helens on a bittersweet night for the Great Britain international on Friday. The goalkicking scrum-half climbed to second place in the club's all-time list of points-scorers with his 121st try, but was left kicking himself for missing the chance to clinch a famous victory as Saints were held to a 28-28 draw with London Broncos in a dramatic Super League clash at Knowsley Road.

Despite what was mainly a disappointingly low-key display, St Helens looked set to complete a trademark last-gasp win when their Kiwi centre Willie Talau went in for his third try two minutes from the end to tie the scores for the second time.

Long had kicked one conversion from the touchline to take his remarkable points tally to 2,009, but he was off- target for the fourth time in six attempts to produce only the second draw in Super League X, which extended both teams' unbeaten run to five matches.

London, who were without their influential skipper Mark McLinden, were clearly the more grateful of the two teams for the point. They had looked in danger of being overwhelmed when Saints raced in for two tries in the first eight minutes of the game, but they gradually clawed their way back into the match, thanks largely to their two-try scrum-half Thomas Leuluai.

The Broncos could manage just five tries, compared to six by their opponents, but Paul Sykes kicked his first four goals before crucially missing his last two attempts.

"I don't think you saw the real Broncos in terms of the style of football we like to play," said the London coach, Tony Rea. "But we defended with a lot of effort."

Elsewhere, the Australian winger Nathan Blacklock's second hat-trick of the season helped Hull regain third place in the table with a 30-16 victory over Leigh.

But they were made to fight tooth and nail by their bottom-of-the-table opponents in a dress rehearsal for next week's Powergen Challenge Cup quarter-final at the KC Stadium.

Blacklock, who once topped the Australian try-scoring charts three seasons in a row, took his tally in England to 14 with a blistering treble, with his fellow winger Richie Barnett grabbing his second successive pair.

Although Steve Maden's ninth-minute try and Steve McCurrie's late consolation were the only times Leigh came within reach of Hull's line, Darren Abram's men showed enough spirit and resolve to suggest they may show better when the sides meet again next Saturday.

"I am disappointed we did not get the two points but I am proud of the players," said the Centurions coach. "We are now very much looking forward to next week. We have come to a top-four club in Super League, in a magnificent stadium, and have come away with credit. We have taken on Hull twice now and pushed them twice. John Kear knows about shocks better than anyone, so we are relishing coming back here next week."