St Helens 56 Catalans Dragons 10: Long makes short work of extinguishing Dragons' fire

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The Independent Online

Long and Stacey Jones, who could be in opposition when Great Britain play New Zealand at Knowsley Road later this month, matched each other stride for stride in the early stages. But Long dominated the first hour and the game was already won by the time he departed for a well-earned rest.

"Longy was easily our sharpest," said his coach (and once Jones's coach for club and country), Daniel Anderson. "It was mission accomplished for us, but it won't be shown in the archives as one of our better games. It was very disjointed, especially in the first half."

Long was Saints' catalyst from the start and Ade Gardner would have scored after a defence-splitting exchange of passes with him in the 11th minute had he not lost the ball diving over the line. There was no such mistake two minutes later when Long ran on to Keiron Cunningham's pass to find a gap in a defence that was already looking overworked.

Saints surrendered that initiative immediately. Mark Hughes was stopped inches short but there was no stopping Jones - the little Kiwi dummied his way through and Laurent Frayssinous' kick put the Dragons ahead.

Gardner got his chance to make up for his earlier blunder when Saints, always dangerous in possession, ran the ball on the last tackle and Long and Jamie Lyon gave him a clear passage to the line. The French side were defending stoically, but they were breached again when Paul Anderson went over for the first try of his last season as a player and Lyon put over the goal.

Again Saints did their best to yield the initiative when Paul Sculthorpe failed to play the ball properly. Alex Chan was held over the line but, from a charged-down kick, Saints went the length of the field, initially through Leon Pryce and James Graham, with Long's pass finally sending Gardner over for his second.

The Catalans saw one sweeping back-line move ruined by Bruno Verges' knock-on early in the second half, before Anderson doubled his tally for the season, again from close range with the French unable to hold his momentum.

The Dragons squandered what field position they had with the sort of weary handling mistakes that suggest it was they, rather than Saints, who were unused to playing in the heat. Long went off at this stage, but the Catalans were still struggling to contain Cunningham, who duly set up Pryce for Saints' seventh try.

Lyon, who finished with eight goals, also poached a try from an intercept, before Justin Murphy went 90 metres for a consolation for the visitors. Gardner, who had had a mixed afternoon, completed his hat-trick, despite looking suspiciously offside, with four minutes to play, before Vinnie Anderson rounded it off in the final minute.

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

Catalans: Guigue; Murphy, Wilson, Hughes, Verges; Frayssinous, Jones; Fellous, Rinaldi, Guisset, Jampy, Fakir, Hindmarsh. Substitutes used: Chan, Beattie, Berphezene, Rudder.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

Sunday Preview: Rivett ready for glory-day rerun

For a National League club bidding to reach the semi-finals of the Powergen Challenge Cup, Hull Kingston Rovers know a surprising amount about the competition. Their coach, Justin Morgan, who agreed an extended contract as Rovers prepared for today's tie against Warrington, and two of his players, Tommy Gallagher and Damien Couturier, were part of Toulouse's progress to the last four last season.

And in Leroy Rivett they have a winger who is part of Cup final folklore, for his four tries for Leeds in the 1999 final. Rivett has had his ups and downs - mainly downs - since, but says he is enjoying his rugby again in a Rovers side unbeaten in NL2.

There is a replay today of his unforgettable match, with Leeds at home to Harlequins, as their 1999 opponents, the London Broncos, have become. A major boost for the Quins is that a second Cup deadline allows Henry Paul to play. The same ruling allows Keith Mason to play for Huddersfield against Salford, in the hardest of today's ties to call.

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