Rugby League: Saints sunk by Ward's exit

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St Helens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

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

ST HELENS tried everything they knew to overcome the handicap of having Kevin Ward sent off after just five minutes, but it was not quite enough.

For effort and tenacity Saints deserved to progress into the semi-finals of the Regal Trophy, but, in a match delayed for the televising of the showjumping at Olympia, and appropriately played at a rare old gallop, the task of playing for 75 minutes with 12 men proved too high an obstacle for them to clear.

Not that there could be too much argument about the manner of Ward's dismissal. He stuck out a foot to trip Mike Ford as the Castleford scrum-half chased his own kick and the referee, Colin Steele, did not have to ponder for very long before taking the decision to send him off.

The loss of their former Castleford forward and arguably their most inspirational player was a crippling blow, but Saints stuck manfully to the uphill task. They made the situation considerably worse by conceding a soft first try, two defenders being caught flat-footed by Peter Coyne's long kick and St John Ellis sidefooting ahead for the touchdown.

When Lee Crooks landed the goal, it seemed that Castleford might soon run away with the game. But Saints hit back with a penalty from David Lyon after Sonny Nickle's run caught Castleford offside.

Then, on the stroke of half- time, they took an unlikely lead. Paul Loughlin, starting his first game since breaking his arm in Australia six months ago, showed that his class is undiminished by working the ball skilfully to Les Quirk, who sidestepped one defender and slid over the line with another in tow, Lyon adding the goal.

Within a minute of the restart, another flash of quality, this time from Castleford's New Zealand loose forward Tawera Nikau, restored a lead that his side was destined to hold. Running wide on the right, Nikau bumped out of a tackle, showed the ball one way and then slipped it inside for Tony Smith to romp in.

Crooks missed the conversion but soon added a penalty and, although Saints' 12 men applied plenty of pressure, that was the end of the scoring. Their best chances went begging when Jarrod McCracken knocked on Gary Connolly's pass and when Tea Ropati was halted a yard short.

No one worked harder than the man of the match, Saints' loose forward Chris Joynt, but he and his team-mates were understandably exhausted by their extra work load before the end.

St Helens: D Lyon; J McCracken, G Connolly, P Loughlin, L Quirk; T Ropati, S Cooper; J Neill (G O'Donnell 64 min), B Dwyer, K Ward, G Mann, S Nickle, C Joynt. Sub not used: P Veivers. Coach: M McClennan.

Castleford: S Middleton (G Anderson 40 min); St J Ellis, R Blackmore, T Smith, J Wray; P Coyne, M Ford; L Crooks, C Watson, D Sampson, T Morrison, M Ketteridge, T Nikau. Sub not used: K England. Coach: D Van de Velde.

Referee: C Steele (Barrow).

Scorers: Ellis/Crooks (try/goal, 17 min, 0-6); Lyon (pen, 28 min, 2-6); Quirk/Lyon (try/goal, 40 min, 8-6); Smith (try, 41 min, 8-10); Crooks (pen, 44 min, 8-12)