Saints withstand late Pratt double

St Helens 35 Bradford 30
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The Independent Online

The last time these two teams met, on Easter Monday, Saints infamously fielded a reserve team and conceded 54 points it was clear from the opening moments last night that this was going to be a radically different affair.

There was less than a minute gone when Martin Gleeson opened the left flank for Darren Albert as Jason Hooper came steaming up in support for Saints' first try.

Still inside five minutes, the Australian stand-off, one of Saints' strengths this season, scored his second, racing 60 yards from the scrum, too fast and too strong for the chasers.

With two of Saints' first-choice front row missing, that was the area Bulls had to hit and they did so successfully after 12 minutes when Paul Anderson forced his way over from Deacon's inside pass.

It was a brief respite because, after Stuart Reardon's knock-on, Saints punished Bradford from the scrum, Sean Long cutting back to leave the defence flat-footed and score. After 24 minutes Lee Gilmour, who left Bradford for Saints in the close season, backed up his coach, Ian Millward's assertion that he is the fastest back-rower in the English game by breaking a tackle and going 65 yards for a spectacular solo effort.

Bradford's reply was similar to their first try, Rob Parker this time the man to take Deacon's pass and drive over. But with Long taking his goal tally to five with a penalty before half-time, Saints were well in command at the interval.

They moved clear into second place in the Super League after Jason Hooper's hat-trick of tries saw them home despite a defiant counter-blast from Karl Pratt.

Bradford needed the first try in the second half and, thanks to Pratt they did so, as they slid in the corner from Paul Johnson's pass.

They would have been nearer still if Long had not made a wonderful tackle on Reardon, straight after which it was Hooper's turn to strike again, supporting Gleeson's break, and again striding away to complete his hat-trick.

That should have been that, but Pratt scored two tries in as many minutes by following up kicks by Beacon and Lee Radford.

Saints, for all the breathtaking quality of their play, could now lose. But a calming drop-goal from Paul Sculthorpe and Bradford's inability to get into their territory in the dying minutes saw them hang on.

St Helens: Wellens, Albert, Gleeson, Talau, Gardner, Hooper, Long, Fozzard, Wilkin, Bibey, Gilmour, Joynt, Sculthorpe.

Substitutes used: Edmondson, Feaunati, Graham, Roby.

Bradford: Reardon, Pratt, Johnson, Hape, Vainikolo, Pryce, Deacon, Anderson, Paul, Fielden, Peacock, Langley, Swann.

Substitutes used: Vagana, Radford, Smith, Parker.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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