Rugby League: St Helens mix panic and potency

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Featherstone. .16

St Helens . . .37

THE BEST of St Helens triumphed over the worst of St Helens in a match which showed both sides of their nature before ending Featherstone's 11-month unbeaten home record in the League last night.

Featherstone had themselves to blame for a flying Saints start. A misdirected kick from Martin Pearson allowed them to start moving upfield, a penalty for offside advanced them further and then Featherstone's tacklers made the mistake of assuming that George Mann had been stopped, allowing him to spin around and score.

After 11 minutes, Saints' lead began to look potentially decisive when Loughlin's long break and unselfish pass sent in Alan Hunte.

With Featherstone struggling to contain the power of Mann and Sonny Nickle, Saints could have increased their advantage had it not been for over-anxiety. Instead, Featherstone scored when Neill went high on Carl Gibson and Pearson landed the penalty. Featherstone continued to claw their way back when their pressure forced another penalty in a comfortable position for Pearson.

By now Saints' defence was as bad as their attack had previously been excellent. They were slow to respond to a Brett Daunt chip and Terry Manning was able to pick up and send Ikram Butt in for a try.

Saints' lead was now tenuous enough for Gus O'Donnell's drop goal 90 seconds into the second half to look a thoroughly good idea. Within four minutes, though, Featherstone were ahead for the first time when Gavin Hill drove close to the line and Richard Gunn fired a precise pass for Neil Roebuck to score.

Back came Saints, Mann charging in for his second try while most attention was concentrated on a fight between Daunt and O'Donnell.

Saints were in potent rather than panic-stricken mode again and two minutes later Nickle provided Hunte with his second try. Five minutes after that, a fine run by Chris Joynt sent in David Lyon.

An even weaker piece of defence allowed Hunte his hat-trick in injury time but one worry for Saints, and for the New Zealand coach, Howie Tamati, was that Tea Ropati lasted only 13 minutes.

Featherstone: Pearson; Butt, Manning, Gibson, Simpson; Maloney, Daunt; Molloy (Casey, 54), Gunn, Casey (Hill, 15; Molloy, 72), G S Price (G H Price, 62), Roebuck, Tuuta.

St Helens: Lyon; Riley, Veivers, Loughlin, Hunte; Ropati (Quirk, 13), O'Donnell; Neil (Dannatt, 23), Dwyer, Mann, Nickle, Joynt, Cooper.

Referee: I Ollerton (Wigan).