Saints fightback provides respite from troubled times

Warrington 30 St Helens 30
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The Independent Online

St Helens ended a tumultuous few days clinging precariously to their place in Super League's top six after a game as dramatic as any so far this season.

Saints, who later lost John Stankevitch with a suspected broken leg, were threatened with being overrun by a rampant Warrington at times in the first half, but battled back to lead with five minutes to play.

Lee Penny's try and a fifth goal from Lee Briers brought the scores level and, in time added on for Stankevitch's injury, Briers twice failed with long-range drop goal attempts that could have won the game.

After a week of turbulence, much of it centred on the deduction of two points for breaching last year's salary cap, Saints deserved something for the courage they showed in their fightback.

Warrington's exceptionally aggressive defence gave them the edge from the start, with Briers' crash tackle on Anthony Stewart dislodging the ball for Brent Grose to score.

Grose claimed a second from Briers' clever kick and Jon Clarke got over from dummy-half after a driving run from Darren Burns.

Saints only stayed vaguely in touch by twice exploiting the one flaw in Warrington's defence, their inability to wrap up Keiron Cunningham, who laid on tries for Mike Bennett and Paul Sculthorpe. They were slipping into further trouble, however, and the anxiety showed in the unprecedented sight of Sean Long donning headphones on the pitch to talk to his coach, Ian Millward, something that Millward's opposite number, Paul Cullen, described as: "blatant cheating''.

Of more concern to Cullen would have been the way that Warrington's half-time lead of eight points failed to reflect their superiority, but they stretched it soon after the break when Jerome Guisset went over from close range.

That only triggered what Cullen called Saint's inevitable purple patch. In six minutes, they scored tries through Sculthorpe, Ade Gardner and Long, although there was an element of doubt about the latter two because of passes that looked forward.

Sculthorpe's third goal, converting Long's try, put Saints ahead for the first time and when Paul Newlove went over they looked likely to run away with it against a team they thrashed by 50 points at Knowsley Road in April.

Warrington showed the same resilience that Saints had displayed earlier to draw level once more.

"We're going through a rocky patch at the moment, that's well documented, but I'm standing solid by the players,'' said Millward. "We'll come out the other end of this and there were some good signs today.''

Warrington: Penny; Appo, Grose, Sibbit, Smyth; Briers, Wood; Fozzard, Clarke, Hilton, Burns, Wainwright, Domic. Substitutes used: Noone, Mark Gleeson, Guisset, Stevens.

St Helens: Stewart; Albert, Martin Gleeson, Newlove, Gardner; Sculthorpe, Long; Britt, Cunningham, Joynt, Bennett, Stankevitch, Smith. Substitutes used: Wellens, Higham, Ward, Jones.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).