Rugby League:: Hunte keeps Saints in command

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St Helens. . . . . . . . 34

Hull Kingston Rovers. . .14

ST HELENS clung on to their slim hopes of denying Wigan the First Division Championship with a bloodless victory over a side with nothing now to lose, writes Dave Hadfield.

With the threat of relegation removed, Hull Kingston Rovers' tackling lacked the bite they had shown in their two Challenge Cup ties against Widnes and in the league against Wigan on Tuesday.

Gary Connolly was the first to feel the benefit of their more relaxed approach, running at the defence and slinging out a precise pass for Alan Hunte to score after just three minutes.

Within another three minutes, the towering John Harrison had been allowed to amble over the line with assorted tacklers hanging from his limbs for a try, Paul Loughlin scoring the goal.

Considering their position, Rovers regrouped diligently enough and Mike Fletcher put them on the scoreboard with a penalty after Jon Neill had stolen the ball from Des Harrison.

But the urgency was understandably missing from their game and there was nobody to stop David Lyon after the St Helen's half- backs, Tea Ropati and Jonathan Griffiths, linked on the half-hour.

A break from the base of the scrum by Shane Cooper and Griffiths set up Ropati soon after the break, Loughlin kicking his third goal.

There was a glimpse of what Rovers can do when they have to in a superb team try, the ball going through 10 pairs of hands before Mike Bibby scored in the corner, Gary Chatfield scoring the goal.

Hunte's second, following a glorious break by Chris Joynt and a bizarre fumble by the Rovers' substitute, Sean Hoe, kept Saints in control, even though Des Harrison soon replied for the visitors.

Saints roused themselves for a try scored by Griffiths after he had already figured twice in the build- up, Ropati adding the goal in the absence of Loughlin who had been struck full in the face by the ball some minutes earlier.

With the exception of Loughlin, it was a comfortable enough win, but one which, thanks to the removal of half its raison d'etre, carried a curious sense of unreality.

St Helens: Lyon; Riley, Connolly, Loughlin (Sullivan, 61), Hunte; Ropati, Griffiths; Neill (Veivers, 61), Dwyer, J Harrison, Joynt, Veivers (O'Donnell, 56), Cooper.

Hull KR: M Fletcher (Thompson, 40); Brown (Hoe, 40), Liddard, Hutchinson, Bibby; Harker, Chatfield; C Harrison, Chamberlain, O'Brien, P Fletcher, D Harrison, Speckman.

Referee: G Annesley (Sydney).