Rugby League: Saints' confidence returns: Inspired St Helens return to winning ways while Warrington stay on top

Click to follow
The Independent Online
St Helens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

Castleford. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

ST HELENS took the most important step so far in their rehabilitation under their new coach, Eric Hughes, with a convincing win over the form team in the Stones Bitter Championship.

Two tries in rapid succession after an enterprising and even first half-hour put Saints on the way to victory, the scale of which amazed their most optimistic supporters. Before the end, they had rendered Castleford unrecognisable from the side that had put 33 points past Wigan two weeks previously.

The breakthrough try owed something to Stuart Cummings' membership of the laissez-faire Widnes school of refereeing the play-the-ball. He allowed Shane Cooper to get away with coming from offside to kick the ball away. When Saints gained possession, two of their young reserves combined, with Tommy Hodgkinson sending Ian Pickavance in for the try.

There could be no quarrel with the second Saints try straight from the restart. Tony Kemp managed to ankle tap Alan Hunte after a long break, but Bernard Dwyer continued the momentum of the attack for Jonathan Griffiths to score.

A lovely pass from Cooper to Anthony Sullivan and the second of Paul Loughlin's four goals stretched the lead to 10 points early in the second half. A drop goal from Tommy Martyn and a try from Phil Veivers, after the stand-in fullback, Jason Flowers, had fumbled Cooper's grubber kick, put the match beyond Castleford's reach before the hour.

Energetic performances in the second row from Pickavance and, after his return to first team action as a substitute, Dwyer, ensured that Saints missed Chris Joynt far less than Castleford did their World Sevens absentees, Graham Steadman and St John Ellis.

Two tries in the last 10 minutes showed the way their confidence was flowing back after

defeats in their last three league games. Another long-range attack from Hunte set up the first. Although Simon Middleton halted him a foot short, Griffiths darted over from dummy half for his second touchdown.

A dropped ball then gave Martyn the chance to kick ahead and round off an impressive afternoon's work by a side still short of full strength.

Castleford had started well enough, Middleton's pick-up and bounce out of Sonny Nickle's tackle bringing them the first try of the game. When it was too late, Lee Crooks' pass sent Grant Anderson in for the sort of try they have been scoring so regularly in recent weeks.

Castleford's chances in the Championship disappeared when they dropped too many points early on. So impressive was their recent form that anything seemed possible.

It seems that this Castleford side will be like the best Castleford teams of the past - specialists in inflicting misery in cup competitions but too fallible for league titles.

St Helens: Prescott (Veivers, 46); Riley, Hunte, Loughlin, Sullivan; Martyn, Griffiths; Neill, Hodgkinson, Dannatt, Pickavance, Nickle (Dwyer, 24), Cooper.

Castleford: Flowers; Wray, Blackmore,

Anderson, Middleton; Kemp, Ford; Crooks, Russell, Ketteridge (England, 27), Morrison (Smales, 70), Smales (Hay, 50), Nikau.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).