St Helens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
IT TOOK a freak try midway through the second half to change the course of a match full of all the red-blooded flavour of cup rugby.
Although Saints looked comfortable winners of this Regal Trophy tie, the difference between second in the First Division and first in the Second during the first hour was reflected in a one-point margin.
Gus O'Donnell, a player who knows the value of a single point added to the scoreboard at the right time, may kick many drop goals in a career that is just getting off the ground. He will kick none, however, that is more valuable than the one he missed on the hour at Post Office Road yesterday.
O'Donnell's efforts from an angle to the right flew a foot past the left-hand upright. With Featherstone relieved to see it go wide, Anthony Sullivan raced in from the far touchline to leap, take the ball on the full and touch down just before the dead-ball line.
Although David Lyon and Chris Joynt scored tries in the last 10 minutes and Lyon added two conversions, the game was decided by O'Donnell's miscue.
Up to that point, the Second Division leaders had given as good as they got. They led 4-2 after an early flurry of penalties, but then conceded a try after Chris Bibb had dropped the ball without the referee spotting the knock-on only for the touch judge to intervene.
Possession from the scrum gave Saints the perfect attacking opportunity and Shane Cooper and Lyon sent Jarrod McCracken crashing over for a try converted by Lyon.
O'Donnell landed a drop kick to make it 9-4, but Featherstone struck back before half-time when they were fortunate to be awarded a penalty, Ian Smales diving low from Richard Gunn's pass to go over.
Paul Newlove looked capable of winning the game for the home side with his strong running in the second half. But Saints, with Kevin Ward, Joynt and O'Donnell outstanding in their pack, kept their noses in front until they could seal their place in the quarter-finals.
Featherstone: Bibb; Butt, Manning, Newlove, Simpson; Pearson, Daunt; Taekata (Wilson, 73), Gunn, Price (Burton, 35) (Fisher, 65), Fisher (Price, 57), Smales, Tuuta.
St Helens: Lyon; Quirk, Connolly, McCracken, Sullivan; Ropati, Cooper; Ward (Dwyer, 73), O'Donnell, Mann, Harrison, Nickle, Joynt.
Referee: P Volante (Batley).