Rugby League: O'Donnell ends McClennan era with late winner: Saints get the drop

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The Independent Online
St Helens. . .23

Hull KR. . . .22

THE LOWEST League crowd at Knowlsey Road for 12 years last night saw a last-minute drop goal from Gus O'Donnell end the Mike McClennan era with the most precarious of victories.

Hull KR had deserved the draw for their resillience but as the match went into injury time the St Helens substitute struck the ball cleanly over from 25 yards.

Saints made the sort of start that could drive a coach to drink or even to pour his drink out of the window from which he was viewing proceedings for the last time. After two minutes, their defence was opened up by the Rovers' half-backs, Gary Chatfield and Wayne Parker, for Mike Fletcher to score a try.

Three goals from Steve Prescott and a Chris Joynt try, well crafted by Andy Dannatt and Tea Ropati, put Saints 10-6 ahead but they still looked unconvincing and were fortunate to lead at half-time.

Another lovely piece of play by Chatfield, this time a cunning kick to the corner, created a try for

Julian Barkworth and Mike Fletcher's penalty, after Ropati had been penalised for stealing the ball from Parker put the visitors ahead.

Ropati, feeling his way back towards the form that made him last season's star laid on the try that put them back in front. His long pass stranded the Rovers defence and put Paul Loughlin outside the cover to give McClennan something positive to talk about in the last of his inimitable half-time lectures.

Ropati was the instigator again, sending in Jonathan Griffiths for a try early in the second half before limping off with what appeared to be a recurrence of his calf injury. Prescott missed the conversion but landed a fourth goal when Rovers were penalised for obstruction.

Rovers, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that the game was slipping away from them, picked up another penalty when Adam Fogerty went high on Wayne Jackson. A darting diagonal run from Chatfield also threatened Saints' composure and Fletcher's fourth goal edged them closer to their opponents.

Prescott then gave Saints a little more breathing space with another penalty. Barkworth then dropped David Liddiard's pass with the line open, but made up for it almost immediately taking Parker's pass from the scrum for his second try.

The conversion tied it up but Saints came closest to a winner when Shane Cooper hit the post with a drop kick before O'Donnell was fractionally more accurate.

St Helens: Lyon (Riley 40); Prescott, Veivers, Loughlin, Sullivan; Ropati (O'Donnell 44), Griffiths; Dannatt, Dwyer, Fogerty (Ropati, 76), Joynt, Nickle, Cooper.

Hull KR: M Fletcher; Barkworth, Liddiard, Charlesworth, Oliver; Chatfield, Parke; Hosking (O'Brien 51), Chamberlain, Jackson, P Fletcher, Harrison, Leighton (Clark 27).

Referee: S Nicholson (Whitehaven).