Saints relive Jungle nightmare as Briers inspires Warrington

Warrington 36 St Helens 44
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The Independent Online

St Helens, victims of an unlikely comeback against Castleford at The Jungle in midweek, came alarmingly close to being embarrassed by an even more astonishing turn-around by Warrington.

After 10 minutes of the second half the Wolves were trailing 44-12, but four tries – three of them in a six-minute spell – gave them a chance of snatching the match at the death. "It was the best half we've had all season, but we lost our way in the second,'' admitted Saints' Paul Sculthorpe.

Warrington almost took advantage, starting when Paul Wood plunged over the line. Three tries then followed in swift succession, from Dave Alstead, Rob Smyth, and, on his debut, Danny Halliwell.

There was still plenty of time to win it but Lee Briers, outstanding in the Wolves' fightback, failed narrowly with a 40/20 kick that would have given them a good attacking position. Saints then stepped up their tackling and survived. "It wasn't to be, but we got back our credibility," said the Warrington coach, David Plange.

The visitors had been devastating for 15 minutes of the first half, scoring five tries in giving the Wilderspool crowd a dazzling demonstration of why they are the most difficult team in the league to play against.

Paul Wellens began it by taking Chris Joynt's pass to go over, while Sculthorpe's clever pass and Paul Newlove's burst of pace then released Darren Albert for the first of his two. Sean Hoppe went over, but the next two tries were the pick of the lot.

Kieron Cunningham sent Joynt away and then supported him for a try that was a testament to the pace of the modern forward, before Albert picked up Matt Rodwell's kick on his own 20-metre line and raced through the entire Warrington team for one of the most spectacular efforts of his St Helens career so far.

A very optimistic Warrington fan might have persuaded himself that, as on Tuesday, Saints could let an 18-point lead slip again; instead, they had turned it into a 28-point advantage inside 23 minutes. Warrington finally replied when Briers intercepted from Martin Gleeson and went 70 yards, with Jon Clarke going over soon after.

Normality was restored with two tries from Mark Edmondson on either side of half time, the second from a subtle kick from Cunningham. Tim Jonkers' try appeared to have taken Saints beyond recall, but their scare was still to come.

Warrington: Alstead, Smyth, Burns, Halliwell, Rivett, Briers, Rodwell, Fozzard, Clarke, Laughton, Marquet, Guisset, Domic. Substitutes: Hilton, Wood, Noone, Hulse.

St Helens: Albert, Hoppe, Gleeson, Newlove, Stewart, Sculthorpe, Wellens, Stankevitch, Cunningham, Shiels, Joynt, Jonkers, Bennett. Substitutes: Kirkpatrick, Edmondson, Whittle, Southern.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham)