Rugby League: Cooper completes a revival by Saints

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The Independent Online
Halifax. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

St Helens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

A PRECIOUS try from Shane Cooper four minutes from time saved a lacklustre St Helens at Thrum Hall last night after two tries from Mark Preston seemed to have given his old club, Wigan, a big shove towards the championship, writes Dave Hadfield.

Saints, their flagging title hopes revived by Wigan's midweek defeat at Bradford, got exactly the start they needed. There seemed nothing particularly fierce about Shane Cooper's tackle in the seventh minute but it was enough to jolt the ball out of the arms of the Warren Wilson, the Halifax full-back, in his own 25. Phil Veivers picked up, Chris Joynt passed to Paul Loughlin and Saints claimed the softest of touchdowns, Loughlin adding the goal to his try.

Halifax, still smarting from deserved criticism of the way they had collapsed to a heavy defeat at Warrington last week, responded well. Paul Bishop landed a penalty after Saints had been punished for crossing then a quite astonishing back-flipped pass from Gary Lord to Graeme Hallas on the sixth tackle produced a spectacular try for Preston.

Halifax took the lead five minutes before the break when Cooper was penalised for stealing the ball from Hallas and Bishop, the former St Helens scrum-half, kicked a penalty.

Halifax were looking the stronger side in the second half suddenly found a huge hole in a previously solid Halifax defence and Tea Ropati arrived in support for a simple try, improved by Loughlin.

Preston's second, after Connolly and Mike Riley had failed to take Bishop's angled kick, brought Halifax level 10 minutes from time. Bishop had an inevitable drop goal attempt charged down and Saints looked to be shaping up for a pot shot of their own when they went to the other end with four minutes to go.

Instead, Bernard Dwyer spotted a gap from dummy half and Shane Cooper scored the try that keeps Saints' ambitions alive.

Halifax: Wilson (Cooper, 10); Bentley, Hallas, Austin, Preston; Bailey, Bishop; K Harrison, Southernwood, McLean (Fogerty, 54), Lord, Perrett (McLean, 72), Divorty.

St Helens: Lyon; Riley, Connolly, Loughlin, Hunte; Ropati, Griffiths; Neill, Dwyer, J Harrison (O'Donnell, 77), Joynt, Veivers, S Cooper.

Referee: I Ollerton (Wigan).