Rugby League: Saints march on to tune of Ropati

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The Independent Online
St Helens. . .10

Widnes. . . . .8

A TRY two minutes from time by their New Zealand stand-off, Tea Ropati, preserved St Helens' 100 per cent record in a thrilling Lancashire Cup tie last night. Saints have grown used to running other sides ragged this season, but they had to absorb pressure from Widnes for virtually all the first half.

With Bobby Goulding scurrying productively and the second row of Richie Eyres and Paul Moriarty charging in, Widnes got close to the Saints' line on several occasions, including once when Tony Myler dropped the ball with a try beckoning. They had to be content, however, with a penalty by Jonathan Davies.

There were signs that Saints were lifting the siege as Anthony Sullivan went 65 yards before being cut down by a perfect tackle from Davies and when David Hulme was sin-binned for holding down the same player.

Widnes' tendency to make handling mistakes in their own 25 caught up with them. Moriarty dropped the ball and it was moved swiftly to the right for George Mann to send in Gary Connolly. Saints increased their lead with Bernard Dwyer's conversion.

It was Saints' turn to press forward after the break, with Sonny Nickle being stopped inches short and Shane Cooper's grubber kick needing a diving save from Davies.

Just after the hour, Saints' defence suffered a costly lapse, allowing Steve McCurrie to dash 20 yards on the diagonal from dummy-half. He scored close enough to the posts to leave Davies a comfortable conversion and put Widnes back in front.

Dwyer dropped the ball over the Widnes line as Saints surged back and a brilliant run by Alan Hunte threatened the visitors again. Hunte seemed to have scored five minutes from time after Kevin Ward's break and Cooper's kick had opened the way, but Widnes forced him into the corner flag.

In the 78th minute, Widnes finally yielded with Ward and Cooper again doing the lead-up work to enable Ropati to find the gap in a stubborn defence for which Saints had been searching.

St Helens: Vivers; Hunte, Connolly, McCracken, Sullivan; Ropati, Griffiths; Neill (Forber, 55), Dwyer, Ward, Nickle, Mann, Cooper.

Widnes: Davies; Devereux, Spruce, Wright, Hadley; Myler (Holliday, 56), Goulding; Sorensen (Howard, 26), McCurrie, Faimalo, Moriarty, Eyres, D Hulme.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).