Rugby League: Gregory's work-rate wins it for Warrington: Casey claims his first tries as Saints' stand-ins make visitors toil

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St Helens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

Warrington. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

WARRINGTON took their turn in the three-cornered contest for the championship to vault back to the top of the First Division yesterday, but for an hour the unregarded of St Helens proved a far more awkward obstacle than had been expected.

It was only when Jonathan Davies'slong, low kick bounced away from Steve Prescott and into Rob Myler's arms with 18 minutes to go that Warrington took the lead for the first time. Davies kicked the conversion and Rowland Phillips laid on a try for the tireless Mike Gregory six minutes later to put Warrington in command.

Davies's goal and his drop goal eight minutes from time made the winning margin look relatively comfortable, but the match had been anything but that. Despite being ravaged by injuries, Saints put up a splendid show in the first half, with their young deputy loose- forward, Sean Casey, going over for his first two tries for the first team.

Casey, who has played only a handful of senior games in his two years at Knowsley Road, struck first in the seventh minute, charging on to Gus O'Donnell's pass to cross the try line. Another of the Saints' stand-ins, the hooker Tommy Hodgkinson, contributed to Casey's second, measuring a clever angled kick after Kevin Ellis had stopped Sonny Nickle on the line.

Paul Loughlin succeeded with his second conversion attempt to give Saints a 10-point lead and an oddly subdued Warrington badly needed the breakthrough they made before half-time. Ellis was at the heart of it, throwing out a marvellously accurate long pass to Davies, who sent Lee Penny striding in for a try which Davies also converted.

A foul by Nickle on Ellis allowed Davies to narrow the lead further early in the second half, but a drop goal by O'Donnell kept Saints in command, even if that command was increasingly precarious as Warrington stepped up their efforts.

Strong second-half performances from Phillips and Gregory were instrumental in driving Warrington forward and they were eventually good value for a victory that keeps them ahead of another side who had to come from behind, Bradford Northern, on points difference.

For a Saints side in trouble and in transition, however, there was plenty of encouragement in defeat.

St Helens: Veivers; Prescott, Pickavance, Loughlin, Haigh; Griffiths, O'Donnell; Dannatt, Hodgkinson (McAtee, 59), Harrison, Joynt, Nickle, Casey. Substitute not used: Riley.

Warrington: Penny; Forster, Bateman, Davies, Myler; Ellis (Elliott, 57), Mackey; Chambers (Hilton, 24; Chambers, 70), Thursfield, Phillips, Darbyshire, Gregory, Shelford.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).