Super League: Saints' joy tempered by injury to Wellens
Sunday 19 March 2006
The Great Britain full-back Paul Wellens could be out for six weeks after sustaining a fractured cheekbone and suspected eye damage in St Helens' 38-16 win over Bradford on Friday night. Wellens went off 24 minutes into the match at Knowsley Road after bravely diving on to a loose ball near his own line.
St Helens' club doctor, Simon Perritt, said: "It looks like it could be a serious injury. Paul will go for X-rays on Monday and see a surgeon on Wednesday and we will know more then."
Bradford, too, were counting the cost of a bruising game, with skipper Iestyn Harris (arm) and second rower Paul Johnson (leg) going off before half-time and scrum-half Paul Deacon picking up a facial injury just before the end. Harris had an X-ray which revealed only severe bruising, while their coach, Brian Noble, said that Deacon's problem is not related to the serious facial injury he sustained playing for Great Britain in the 2005 Tri-Nations Series.
St Helens made light of the loss of Wellens, with former Bradford favourite Leon Pryce successfully switching from stand-off to torment his old club. Pryce scored his first try for Saints and was influential throughout as the table-toppers made it six wins out of six and brought to an end the champions' 18-match unbeaten run.
Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson, was delighted with the way his side cut loose to run in seven tries, with wingers Ade Gardner and Francis Meil scoring two each. "I'm very happy," he said. "They let their chains loose on their ability. We needed to back ourselves and we did a few things tonight that we haven't done before. We'll take confidence out of the game, attacking wise."
Anderson tipped Bradford to bounce back after their first defeat since July. "It's a fantastic record and they'll be back," he said. "It was one of those games that went our way."
The Bulls made a dream start, with centre Ben Harris scoring the game's first try after only six minutes but they failed to make the most of a stiff breeze at their backs. They lost their discipline and, as injuries began to disrupt their team, finished well beaten team. "We didn't help ourselves with that many penalties," said the Bradford coach, Brian Noble. "If you give field position to this team, it's hard work. It's not the first time this has happened to us but we're not too despondent. It was one of those nights and we will learn from it."
In Friday's other match, Leeds were pushed all the way by Salford at Headingley before winning 20-12.
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