Wellens leads Saints revenge mission

St Helens 24 Leeds 14
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The Independent Online

Paul Wellens led the way with two tries as Saints gained revenge for last year's semi-final defeat by knocking Leeds out of the Powergen Challenge Cup. Wellens, after a frustrating 2003, showed that he is back to his best in a performance which demonstrated that he is also one of his side's best defenders.

Leeds had a major hand in their own demise, however, making too many errors and turning over the ball too often. "We created some opportunities and played some attractive rugby league, but sometimes we didn't have the patience," admitted their coach, Tony Smith.

After Leeds' free-form approach to the game had brought a number of half-breaks and as many mistakes, the first points of the match arrived in mundane fashion, through Sean Long's penalty after Matt Diskin held down Lee Gilmour.

The first try involved a tantalising glimpse of the rich potential of Leeds' stand-off, Danny McGuire. He did well to take Diskin's difficult pass, even better to time his own pass to send Keith Senior through a gap and then backed up to score.

Saints regained the lead when Paul Sculthorpe sent Wellens over, but it changed hands again with a remarkable piece of agility from Ryan Bailey. Kevin Sinfield kicked on the last tackle and Wellens seemed to have it safely in his grasp only for Bailey to pick his pocket when he collided with Sculthorpe.

Sinfield's second conversion and a penalty made it a six-point lead, but Willie Poching's knock-on gave Saints the chance to strike back immediately before half-time. It summed up the enterprise and adventure with which both sides played when Saints moved the ball the full width of the field on the last tackle with Jason Hooper's final pass putting Dom Feaunati over in the corner.

Two minutes into the second half, Leeds were at it again, Mark Calderwood knocking on and, from that possession, Saints moved the ball wide once more for Willie Talau to serve up Wellens' second. Long missed that goal but added a penalty when Barrie McDermott fouled Mark Edmondson, another example of Leeds' shaky discipline.

Saints could have clinched it if Feaunati had not lost the ball over the line, but Leeds gave up possessionwhen McDermott and Andrew Dunemann made a hash of a play-the-ball. Jon Wilkin picked up and sent Talau thundering over to complete the payback for last year's heartbreak.

St Helens: Wellens; Albert, Gilmour, Palau, Feaunati; Hooper, Long; Fozzard, Higham, Mason, Joynt, Sculthorpe, Cunningham. Substitutes used: Wilkin, Edmondson, Gardner. Not used: Fa'asavalu

Leeds: Connolly; Bai, Walker, Senior, Calderwood; McGuire, Burrow; McDonald, Diskin, McDermott, Furner, Adamson, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Ward, Poching, Bailey, Dunemann.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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