Goulding grabs the initiative

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

St Helens 19 Salford 12

St Helens rejoined Bradford at the top of the Stones Super League last night, but only after a mighty struggle against a Salford side which suffered through playing a man short for 20 minutes.

Salford lost their own 100 per cent record, but played well enough to wonder whether they would have won this match with a full complement on the field for the whole game.

Indeed although Bobbie Goulding kicked Saints into the lead with a shot considerably more difficult than the one he missed at Leeds to cost Saints their unbeaten record on Friday, all the early impetus at Knowsley Road came from Salford.

Saints were at full stretch to keep them out on several occasions before Salford finally got their reward for their pressure after 24 minutes. There was a hint of controversy about the visitors being awarded the feed at a scrum but no doubt about the effectiveness of David Hulme's burst from its base or his pass to send in Fata Sini. Steve Blakeley converted and had Salford scored again after Paul Forber's superb pass to Scott Naylor, it would not have exaggerated their domination.

But Salford, for all the quality of their play, could not add to their score, and in a pivotal few minutes before half-time they lost both Forber and their lead. The second rower was sent to the sin-bin for deliberate off-side and, within seconds, Goulding's long pass had sent Steve Prescott diving in for Saints' first try, Goulding's kick giving Saints an interval lead they hardly deserved.

If Salford were deflated, it did not show. Two minutes after the restart, Ian Watson launched a high kick, uncharacteristically spilled by Prescott, and followed up to touch down. With Forber still off the field, however, Goulding's lateral run and Alan Hunte's 14th try of the season restored Saints' lead.

Watson's sin-binning, again for offside, should have ended Salford's hopes. Instead, they went desperately close to retaking the lead when Sini was held back chasing his own kick. At last, seven minutes from the end, Saints made it safe when Goulding kicked through for Tommy Martyn, Goulding's drop goal rounding off a precarious victory.

St Helens: Prescott; Arnold, Hunte, Matautia, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Joynt, Morley, Hammond. Substitutes used: Booth, Haigh, Northey.

Salford: Broadbent; Sini, Naylor, McAvoy, Rogers; Blakeley, Watson; Platt, Edwards, Eccles, Forber, Faimalo, Hulme. Substitutes used: Martin, Burgess, Randall.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).