Rugby League: Sculthorpe sets up Saints' home run

St Helens 25 Bradford Bulls 16
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ST HELENS' STAY-AT-HOMES ensured that their first play-off match against Leeds next Friday will be at Knowsley Road by clinching second place in the Super League table.

In a match that was anything but end-of-season fare, Saints had the measure of the League leaders for all but the opening stage of the game. After two narrow defeats, this is a win that will send them into the key games of the season in good heart.

Bradford started by far the better with two tries in the first 15 minutes. Paul Atcheson, returning from injury for Saints, gave them their first opportunity with a knock-on from the last tackle of the set, James Lowes put through his familiar stabbed kick with the one variation on his usual theme being that it was Steve McNamara who reached the loose ball to touch down. McNamara added the goal.

Bradford's second try was a flash of vintage Robbie Paul, selling a dummy and darting between Paul Sculthorpe and Kevin Iro to score. Saints, with only a penalty from Tommy Martyn to show, were in a precarious situation. They played their way out with a combination of flair and the ability to force mistakes from the Bulls. Bernard Dwyer lost the ball in a tackle to start the attack that ended with Sculthorpe taking a return pass from Apollo Perelini to go in.

Three minutes later, after Brian McDermott had lost possession, Atcheson got an equally good pass away to Iro and Saints were ahead, Martyn's fourth goal giving them a little more breathing space before half-time.

Martyn edged Saints further ahead with a drop goal early in the second half but his side suffered some frustration before finally clinching the win. Sean Hoppe, making his debut in the unfamiliar role of the second row, and Iro both had tries disallowed, but there was no arguing with the one that saw Martyn, the man of the match, put them in a winning position.

Much of the credit went to Sonny Nickle, whose tigerish defence was responsible for Lowes conceding possession by kicking straight into touch. Martyn's try was a mirror image of Paul's in the first half, his clever sleight- of-hand creating the gap and his acceleration taking him clear.

Quick handling by another of Saints' late-season signings, Des Clark, put Anthony Sullivan in at the corner, and Stuart Fielden's late effort, outjumping Iro to claim Henry Paul's high kick, could not affect the outcome.

St Helens: Atcheson; Smith, Iro, Newlove, Sullivan; Sculthorpe, Martyn; Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Clark, Nickle, Joynt. Substitutes used: Tuilagi, Hoppe, Matautia, Wellens.

Bradford Bulls: Sykes; Vaikona, Naylor, McAvoy, Howlett; R Paul, Deacon; McDermott, Lowes, Anderson, Boyle, Dwyer, McNamara. Substitutes used: H Paul, Donougher, Jowitt, Fielden.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).

n Leeds Rhinos were unimpressive in their 14-8 victory over London Broncos, who travelled north without Karle Hammond, Shaun Edwards and Steele Retchles. Behind initially, Leeds at last came to life when Francis Cummins ran 70 yards for a try and Iestyn Harris added a second.