Outrage as Saints field reserve side

Bradford 54 St Helens 8
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The Independent Online

Supporters of both sides were left bemused and furious yesterday when the St Helens coach, Ian Millward, made a travesty of what could have been one of the best contests of the Super League season by fielding a team of reserves at Odsal.

Saints fans, who had crossed the Pennines, listened in stunned silence to the announcement of a line-up which included such household names as James and Mike Roby, Phil Anderton, Liam Bostock and Peter Cook - but sadly no Dudley Moore.

The Bradford coach, Brian Noble, had another comedian in mind. "We prepared to find George Foreman and we got George Formby,'' he said. "I feel very disappointed for the St Helens supporters who paid their money travelling across."

His chairman, Chris Casley, said: "People came expecting to see two of the best teams in the competition. They saw one and a half and they feel they've been cheated."

Predictably, Millward, who ran into similar criticism at Bradford two years ago, was entirely unrepentant. "We have 10 players injured and no one was rested,'' he insisted.

There were a total of 13 first-teamers missing, five debutantes and only five men who played against Wigan on Good Friday.

Within 10 minutes, that was reduced to four, with Jon Wilkin sent off for a late and high tackle on Paul Deacon.

The most surprising aspect of play before that was that Saints should have taken the lead, with two of their young reserves, Ian Hardman and James Roby, instrumental in Martin Gleeson crossing over after two minutes. That obviously could not last and Saints were soon trailing to Lee Radford's converted try. Things got worse when Wilkin went off.

Against a side outnumbered, as well as outmuscled, it was inevitable Bradford would score more tries.

They duly did so, with Shontayne Hape leading the way with a hat-trick, Lesley Vainikolo and Tevita Vaikona getting two each from the wings and Jamie Langley and Michael Withers, who scored two, also chipping in.

If Withers's goal-kicking, called upon in Deacon's absence, had been better and if they had not squandered a series of other try-scoring chances, Bradford could have won by 70 or 80.

As it was, Saints hung in bravely enough and even had the small moral victory of the last try of the match through Don Feaunati.

Bradford: Withers; Vaikona, Johnson, Hape, Vainikolo; Pryce, Deacon; Vagana, Paul, Fielden, Radford, Peacock, Swann. Substitutes used: Reardon, Parker, Langley, Anderson.

St Helens: Hardman; Gardner, Gleeson, Wilkin, Feaunati; J Roby, Anderton; Bibey, Bostock, Mason, Joynt, Jonkers, Fa'asavalu. Substitutes used: Kenny, Graham, M Roby, Cook.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

* Andy Farrell's fifth goal of the game gave Wigan a 26-24 win over Warrington in a Powergen Challenge Cup semi-final rehearsal after Danny Tickle equalised with a late try.