St Helens 28 Salford 6: Meli blow mars Saints' return to top

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The Independent Online

St Helens went back to the top of Super League but at the expense of a serious ankle injury to Francis Meli that will rule him out of New Zealand's match against Great Britain on Tuesday as well as much of the rest of the domestic season.

"He'll definitely be out for a few weeks, but hopefully it won't be for the season," said his coach, Daniel Anderson, who added that Vinnie Anderson and Jason Cayless could also be doubtful starters for the Kiwis.

Saints, with no less than 13 players who could figure on Tuesday night, started well, a prospective Great Britain partnership doing the damage as Sean Long sent Leon Pryce over.

After that, however, they became ragged against a Salford side lacking almost an entire back division and Jason Hooper was placed on report for a late tackle on Stephen Myler. Salford lost any immediate advantage from that penalty when Danny Lima, making his debut, knocked on and they went further behind after 24 minutes.

Long's kick came back off a defender and Keiron Cunningham was allowed to run across field and put Jamie Lyon in. Even that did not settle Saints down. Nick Fozzard was penalised for a high tackle on Sean Rutgerson and Salford got over the line, Gareth Haggerty defying four tacklers.

Haggerty inadvertently helped Saints to regain control when he was guilty of a high tackle on Pryce early in the second half and another lateral run from Cunningham allowed Jon Wilkin to score. Long's hopeful high kick then bounced kindly for Paul Sculthorpe to touch down.

Lyon then ducked in for a second try to go with his two goals. After Meli had been carried off, Ade Gardner rounded off the scoring from Wilkin's cross-kick.

"We showed the anxiety of a team that had lost its last two games,'' said Anderson.

For Salford's Karl Harrison, there was some satisfaction in the way his depleted team had performed. "The guys played really well, but we're a busted team with a lot of people out injured," he said.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli; Pryce, Long; P Anderson, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Sculthorpe, Hooper. Substitutes used: Graham, Fozzard, Wilkin, V Anderson.

Salford: Hodgson; Langi, Littler, Moule, Williams; Myler, Robinson; Coley, Alker, Rutgerson, Sibbit, Brocklehurst, Finnigan. Substitutes used: Charles, Haggerty, Lima, Highton.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).