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RUGBY LEAGUE; Saints restore faith in game with emphasis on attack

St Helens 57 Warrington 20
ANYONE HAUNTED by the irrational fear that the game is becoming too defensive and cautious would have had it exorcised at Knowsley Road yesterday.

The Super League leaders topped the half century for the fourth time this season and any frailties near their own line were ultimately outweighed by their own ability to exploit the opportunities a generous Warrington gave them.

"We let ourselves down and got told off at half-time," said Saints' scrum- half Sean Long, who finished with 24 points from eight goals and two tries.

Warrington had had a flying start with a try that was a taster of some of the wacky stuff to come, Alan Hunte getting the four points even though he seemed to touch down well beyond the dead ball line. Tommy Martyn's lovely kick allowed Chris Joynt to reply for Saints before Paul Newlove's stunning break set up Tony Stewart.

Simon Gillies' try and a penalty from half-way by Lee Briers kept Warrington in touch before the formidable Newlove and a solo effort from Keiron Cunningham gave Saints an 11-point lead at the break.

Chris Smith's interception from Jon Roper's wild pass put them even more firmly in control, but Gary Chambers forced his way over to revive Warrington's interest.

Martyn then showed how to use the new 40/20 rule to best effect, gaining scrum possession with a long kick and then arcing round the defence to send in Long.

The most bizarre try of all came when Martyn intercepted from Ian Knott, only to lead the ball behind for Hunte to run back and provide the try for Jason Roach.

That was as close as Warrington were to get. Although Saints were the side who had played in midweek, they cut loose in the final quarter, Smith's running creating tries for Martyn and Long and Julian O'Neill, hardly a regular try scorer during his three seasons at the club, doubling his career tally with two before the end.

As ever, Saints' coach, Ellery Hanley, was less concerned with tries scored than with those conceded. "But I find it very hard to be critical of them after the effort they put in at Castleford on Wednesday," he said.

A bigger worry for him is the health of his captain, Paul Sculthorpe, who will have an examination on his knee tomorrow and might well need an operation.

For Warrington, this was the day they slipped out of the top five. The question now is whether they have what it takes to go back there and, on this showing, the answer is likely to be no.

St Helens: Atcheson; Smith, Iro, Newlove, Stewart; Martyn, O'Neill; Cunningham, Nickle, Joynt, Perelini, Sculthorpe. Substitutes: Tuilagi, Jonkers, Edmundson, Wellens.

Warrington: Penny; Roach, Kohe-Love, Hunte, Forster; Wilson, Briers; Chambers, Farrar, Nutley, Gillies, Knott, Wainwright. Substitutes: Duffy, Roper, Busby, Leatham.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).