Rugby League: Saints left waiting

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St Helens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

Widnes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

ST HELENS finished their League programme on top of the table, but there was little Championship quality in the way they disposed of a Widnes side that lacked pride and motivation, writes Dave Hadfield.

Three late tries flattered the Challenge Cup finalists, who seemed to have Wembley rather than Knowsley Road on their minds.

With the honorable exception of Harvey Howard, Widnes were too willing to concede ground and possession meekly. Their troubles began with a Paul Loughlin penalty, the first of his six goals, and continued when John Devereux threw a ridiculous pass straight to Anthony Sullivan for Saints' first try.

A Tea Ropati drop-goal put them comfortably ahead at half-time, and Bernard Dwyer's try from Shane Cooper's pass made the result a foregone conclusion.

George Mann, Saints' best player, with his powerful breaks through some lame tackling, set up the most spectacular try of the game. He broke through, drew in the remaining defence, and then released Loughlin with an immaculate pass.

Les Quirk got the final St Helens try only three minutes after coming on as a substitute. Bobby Goulding dropped the ball - an error sadly typical of Widnes's efforts - and Sonny Nickle ran at the remnants of the defence to allow Quirk to dance in from acting half.

Widnes got their consolation through David Myers, with a smart run down the blind side of the scrum, Stuart Spruce and Les Holliday, who intercepted Ropati's fanciful pass.

The only other good news for them was that Esene Faimalo and Paul Moriarty - give or take a dislocated finger - came safely through their comeback matches after knee surgery.

Saints now face a nervous wait while they hope that Castleford could do them the most massive favour. The matter is now out of their hands, but they cannot honestly claim to have looked worthy champions yesterday.

St Helens: Lyon; Riley, Ropati, Loughlin, Sullivan (Quirk, 64), Griffiths, O'Donnell; Neill (Dwyer, 70), Dwyer (Nickle, 60), Mann, Joynt, Nickle (Cowan, 40), Cooper.

Widnes: Spruce; Myers, Devereux, Wright, Hadley, Davies, Goulding (Davidson, 64); Sorensen (Faimalo, 20), McCurrie, Howard, Moriarty (Davidson, 33 (Moriarty, 53)), Holliday.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).