Rugby League: Long makes big stride as Saints progress

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St Helens 42 Paris 4

St Helens face the daunting prospect of a World Club Championship quarter- final in Brisbane after proving the less weak of two weakened sides in their play-off at Knowsley Road last night, writes Dave Hadfield.

Without ever looking impressive, Saints recovered from a hesitant start to win with some comfort. They will need no one to tell them that meeting the Broncos on their home turf in October will be an entirely different experience.

In front of one of Saints' smallest crowds for years, Paris lacking a number of regulars, started with by far the more purpose. They had already gone close by the time that Dion Bird slipped an inside ball to Shaun Mahoney, who went over for the game's first try.

Suitably shocked into life, Saints responded swiftly, moving the ball across field from a tap penalty for Anthony Sullivan to equalise. More probing at a brittle French defence then saw Chris Joynt supply the final pass for Kieron Cunningham to go over, Sean Long this time adding the goal.

Saints went further ahead through an odd effort, Karle Hammond's pass releasing Derrick McVey, whose ball inside rolled conveniently along the ground for Andy Haigh to slide in and score.

Long then showed why Saints may be prepared to part with Bobbie Goulding, a wonderfully balanced run serving up a try for Alan Hunte. Before half- time, Bird made a mess of a routine kick from Hammond to present Joey Hayes with a gift try and Saints were to all intents on their way to Queensland.

Hayes, still easing his way back after his long lay-off through injury, scored his second after 16 minutes of the second half, racing on to the ball after a powerful break from Saints' new captain, Joynt.

Soon after, Hammond's deft pass and Chris Morley's dummy produced a seventh try for St Helens, who were now finding their task simple and straightforward.

Long confirmed his status as the brightest spark in this game with a sinuous solo try to go with his tally of five goals.

St Helens: Arnold; Hayes, Hunte, Haigh, Sullivan; Hammond, Long; Leathem, Cunningham, O'Neill, McVey, Matautia, Joynt. Substitutes used: Pickavance, Northey, Morley, Anderson.

Paris: Bird; Mahoney, Wall, A Couttet, Hyde; Devecchi, Bergman; Menkins, Bellamy, Priddle, Cabestany, Hogue, Ricard. Substitutes used: N Couttet, Azema, Sort, El Khalouki.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).