St Helens' battle to retain their Super League title goes on against a backcloth of more and more players joining their injured list. Saints suffered four more casualties in the defeat at Bradford on Friday night that virtually ended their hopes of finishing on top of the table going into the play-offs.
"We lost Peter Shiels and Vila Matautia early on and Paul Sculthorpe and Kevin Iro shouldn't have come out for the second half," their coach, Ian Millward, said, particularly praising Iro for carrying on despite a damaged ankle.
"People always question his commitment, but if the RSPCA had been here tonight I'd have been in big trouble," he said. Saints are now six points behind Bradford in third place, but Millward insisted: "We'll be around when the whips start cracking."
Had Valley Parade witnessed such accurate shooting in the winter, Bradford City would have surely survived in the Premiership. Henry Paul's display of marksmanship, in which he succeeded with all eight attempts at goal, allied to a hat-trick of drop goals from Paul Deacon, laid the platform for the 27-14 victory.
Saints outscored their hosts by three tries to two but were kicked to death by the Bulls' half-back pair. One of Paul's six stunning penalties came from five metres inside his own half while Deacon's third one-pointer was a towering 40-metre effort.
"Henry was fantastic and it's all down to practice," the Bradford coach Brian Noble said. "He practises every day. We talked about knocking points off every time we got to that part of the field. Paul Deacon's drop goals were innovative and kept them under the cosh."
St Helens were on course for their first win in Bradford since 1995 when they scored the only tries of a pulsating first half through the impressive David Fairleigh, who later added a second, and the wing Anthony Stewart.
Meanwhile, Wigan stay on the heels of Bradford after a 28-12 victory over Warrington at the JJB Stadium. The Warriors captain, Andy Farrell, dominated the match.
In a bad-tempered affair, three players received yellow cards and the Wigan prop forward Harvey Howard was put on report. The Wigan coach Stuart Raper took a swipe at Warrington's tactics. "Their game plan was simple and predictable and, if that's the way they are going to play, the game is going backwards," he said."
Widnes, who will be in Super League next season, have lost two of the players who got them there. Richard Agar and Matthew Long have moved to Rochdale rather than go full-time, along with their former Dewsbury team-mate, Damien Ball.Reuse content