Spirited Wakefield make Saints work hard for victory

St Helens 34 Wakefield Trinity 2
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The Independent Online

Saints further improved their points difference column, which could be a significant factor when the play-off places are determined in a few weeks' time, although they were made to work for their tries by a spirited Wakefield side fighting against relegation.

The Saints' coach, Ian Millward, opted to give Paul Sculthorpe and Darren Britt a rest, realising that, dogged opponents though Wakefield can be, he should be able to manage without them.

It looked a sound enough assessment when Saints scored three tries between the 10th and 20th minute, all as a result of applying relentless pressure on the Wakefield line.

Tommy Martyn created the first, dummying his way through an overworked defence to set up Mike Bennett for his first try for the club.

Four minutes later and again from a drop-out forced by Saints' pressure, Sean Long got his path away for Sean Hoppe – who announced his retirement this week – to score unopposed in the corner.

Long and Martyn then combined for the third, Martyn retrieving his half back partner's little kick, bouncing it off the upright to follow up and score.

With Long kicking all three goals, two from opposite touchlines, all was set fair, especially when Wakefield's Martin Moana was sin binned for ten minutes for deliberate offside.

To their credit, the short-handed Trinity defence held it together well for the rest of the half, limiting Saints to a touchdown by Tony Stewart, disallowed for a forward pass, and even getting on the scoreboard through an Ian Knott penalty just before the break.

Wakefield could have been a little closer if Deon Bird had not slipped with the try line open early in the second half.

Instead, Stewart made up for his disallowed try by taking Paul Newlove's pass to round off a clinical St Helens move.

Long's clever little kick then set up Martyn in a replay of their famous double act and Keiron Cunningham's muscular run across field ended with a lobbed pass to Martin Gleeson, just on the field, who stepped inside to score.

Wakefield, led for the second time by their new player-coach, Adrian Vowles, dug in again to prevent matters worsening. They had little to be ashamed of in their efforts last night. The more important question for Vowles and his troops is how they will perform in games against fellow relegation candidates, beginning with Salford next week.

St Helens: Wellens, Stewart, Albert, Newlove, Hoppe, Martyn, Long, Ward, Cunningham, Nickle, Stankevitch, Bennett, Higham. Substitutes used: Kirkpatrick, Gleeson, Edmondson, Joynt.

Wakefield: Holland, Sovatabua, Tassell, Bird, Frew, Moana, Davis, Broadbent, March, Feather, Knott, Field, Vowles. Substitutes used: Slattery, Hassan, Handforth, Wrench.

Referee: P Taberner (Wigan).