Tuilagi starts stroll for Saints

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The Independent Online

The final leadership of Super League going into the play-offs will be settled, in the most appropriate manner, on Friday.

The final leadership of Super League going into the play-offs will be settled, in the most appropriate manner, on Friday.

London, with no coach and nothing to play for showed some resilience after a dreadful start but never looked likely at the Valley last night to spoil the preordained showdown between St Helens and Wigan.

Without often needing to be at their best, Saints were always going to return to the top of the table. Whatever happens to Wigan when they play Hull today, the final placings will be decided at Knowsley Road.

The Broncos trained with Nigel Benn during the week, but that experience appeared to have made no difference to their ability to avoid a sucker punch. In the first minutes, Brett Warton spilled Sean Long's high kick and, although Chris Joynt was stopped on the line, Fereti Tuilagi forced his way over.

London were caught cold again when Anthony Sullivan easily won his race with Mat Toshack to reach Paul Sculthorpe's kick and touch down for the second try. Long had already kicked two goals by the time he was presented with another by Jon Clarke's obstruction on Tommy Martyn.

That spurred the Broncos to their best spell of pressure, culminating in Glen Air's bomb, which was knocked back by Toshack for Andy Johnson and scrambled over the line for the try by Air. Unfortunately for London, they then immediately conceded a freak try at the other end, Long's kick-off rebounding straight back to him from Clark and Martyn serving up the ball for Paul Wellens to score.

London introduced Olu Iwenofu for his debut from the bench, making him the first South-east Londoner to come through their development programme and into Super League. That is what their season has been about for some weeks now - looking to the future while getting this year out of the way as quickly as possible.

That was certainly the way it looked when Sculthorpe cut through what passed for a defence immediately after half-time to put John Stankevitch over. Saints also had their flaws in defence and allowed Air's pass to put Peter Lupton through a big gap by way of reply. That was as respectable as it got, Joynt and Tuilagi going over from close range before the end and Long finishing with seven goals from seven attempts.

Saints now go back to Knowsley Road with pole position to play for - and only the reporting of Sculthorpe and Martin for a suspected high tackle to cause them concern - while for London, who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of professional rugby league in the capital this week, there is much lost ground to be made up.

London Broncos: Warton; Peters, Timu, Johnson, Toshack; Lupton, Air; Seibold, Clarke, Cram, Millard, Retchless, Wynyard. Substitutes used: Callaway, Dooley, Davidson, Iwenofu.

St Helens: Wellens; Hall, West, Hoppe, Sullivan; Martyn, Long; Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Joynt, Tuilagi, Sculthorpe. Substitutes used: Nickle, Barrow, Jonkers, Stankevitch.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).

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