Rugby League: Halifax drawn back by Prescott: Saints held

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The Independent Online
St Helens. . .16

Halifax. . . . .16

THE CONVOLUTED plot at the top of the Stones Bitter Championship took another twist last night as neither Saints nor Halifax could grab the victory they needed to make a thrust for first place.

Two late penalties gave St Helens a share of the points that seemed to be on their way to Yorkshire after two brilliant tries by the Halifax winger, Mark Preston.

Halifax generously allowed Saints to maintain early pressure when Michael Hagan miscued a penalty from his own 25 straight to Steve Prescott.

After Andy Dannatt had been held on the line, Bernard Dwyer went over from dummy half to punish the blunder.

Halifax's response was out of character with anything they had achieved in the first quarter, John Bentley releasing a superb pass to Preston, who used all his pace to beat Mike Riley and Prescott on a 75-yard sprint.

The weakness of Halifax's kicking game put them under pressure again and their failure to clamp down at the play-the-ball cost them another try, Dwyer once more exploiting the gap.

Prescott added the conversion as well as a penalty before half-time when Michael Jackson swung a punch in the tackle at Shane Cooper.

Halifax emerged re-envigorated after the break, some classy play creating the position from which Hagan stood up in the tackle to send in his half-back partner Chris Robinson, Schuster's second conversion squaring the score.

Within eight minutes, and with George Mann in the sin bin for a foul on Sharp, Halifax were ahead, Preston scoring a try even better than his first. He appeared well marked when Hagan's long pass found him and a combination of sheer speed and a deceptive change of pace to draw in the full-back sent him clear.

An obvious offside in front of the posts allowed Saints to narrow the lead with 11 minutes to play. Even more infuriating for Halifax was the penalty awarded against them at a play-the-ball while in possession in their own 25, Prescott's comfortable kick levelling the side.

Saints' Gus O'Donnell and Hagan both failed with drop goal attempts to break the deadlock, leaving Halifax marginally more worthy of that elusive victory.

St Helens: Prescott; Riley, Griffiths (O'Donnell, 43), Loughlin, Sullivan; Veivers, Cooper; Neill, Dwyer, Dannatt, Mann, Nickle, Joynt.

Halifax: Lay; Sharp, Schuster, Bentley, Preston; Hagan, Robinson; Harrison (Fieldhouse, 12), Lawless, Lord (Boyd, 62), Boyd (Perrett, 29), Jackson, Divorty.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).

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