Wheeler steers Saints back on track

St Helens 42 Catalan Dragons 8
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Having lost their last two Super League games, St Helens showed no inclination to continue that blip by slackening their grip on the Challenge Cup they have held for the last three years. Francis Meli, Paul Wellens and their latest young starlet, Gary Wheeler, all scored twice as Catalan, finalists two years ago, were swept aside.

"It was always going to be tough for us, given their recent results," said the Dragons coach, Kevin Walters. "History tells that they don't normally lose three matches in a row."

There seemed every risk of Saints running away with this one from the start when they scored two typically fluent tries capitalising on Dragons' blemishes. Dimitri Pelo was driven into touch to concede the possession for Meli's opener and Adam Mogg's high tackle on Leon Pryce produced the chance for Wheeler to claim his first. Catalan dug in their heels and got back into the game, initially through Thomas Bosc's penalty when Keiron Cunningham went high on Gregory Mounis.

Casey McGuire then pinned Saints back with a 40/20 kick and Clint Greenshields' exquisite pass sent Cyril Gossard over for the equalising try.

Saints had found that they had work to do and they responded characteristically with Meli's second as the newly-arrived James Roby began to wield his influence.

Catalan then had an inviting spell of pressure before half-time, but were held at bay. Far worse for them was the way that the cup-holders came straight down to the other end for Wheeler to score his second and do what Sean Long had been unable to do by adding a goal.

A couple of debatable refereeing decisions contributed to an equally poor start to the second half that saw Wellens join the party by scoring twice in quick succession.

He could have had a third, but unselfishly passed instead to the hard-working Paul Clough. Pryce then bounced out of two high tackles for the final try to leave Saints still firmly in possession of the famous old trophy.

"The better team won, obviously," said Walters, who admitted that his side will have to improve their discipline markedly if they are to have any chance when they meet Saints again in Super League in Perpignan on Saturday.

St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Wheeler, Meli; Pryce, Long; Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Gilmour, Flannery, Puletua. Substitutes used: Roby, Clough, Fa'asavalu, Ashurst.

Catalan Dragons: Greenshields; Duport, Bell, Baile, Pelo; Mogg, Bosc; Casty, Bentley, Guisset, Elima, Gossard, Mounis. Substitutes used: Ferriol, McGuire, Carlaw, Fakir.

Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).

*Challenge Cup quarter-final draw:

Hull KR v Warrington
Huddersfield v Castleford
Gateshead v St Helens
Wigan v Salford

Ties take place 29-31 May

Comments