Saints pounce as Penrith lose sight of target

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Penrith Panthers 32 St Helens 26

Shaun McRae, the St Helens coach, wore a broad smile for the first time in the World Club Championship after his side grabbed a lifeline with yesterday's defeat in Penrith.

The six-point defeat means that, unless Halifax performed miracles and beat Brisbane Broncos at Thrum Hall last night, Saints would stay in fourth place on points difference and take part in a play-off against the Pool B winners, Paris St-Germain, at Knowsley Road on Wednesday week to decide the last quarter-final place.

Saints, who have failed to win a match in the tournament, had only a margin of 10 points with which to secure a last-eight berth, but McRae had an inkling that Penrith's need to win by 46 points to make the knock- out stages might work in his side's favour.

"I said at half-time that maybe if, with 20 minutes to go, they were not in with a chance of beating us by 46 points, they might relax a bit and we could get back in the fray," McRae said. "This is the first time I've been able to put a smile on my face when we've been beaten."

He added: "It looked like Penrith might run away with the game but my guys showed a lot of pride and character to come back. We had to do a lot of soul-searching after the humiliation in Auckland and I'm really happy for the guys. It's a pleasing way to leave the country, even if we didn't win."

Bobbie Goulding, the Saints captain, said the team had targeted Penrith as the weakest of their opposition in Pool A.

"We knew when we came out here that the two games against Cronulla and Auckland would be very difficult but we also knew from the game against Penrith back home that we could beat them," he said.

"The lads are made up. Now we've got Paris at home and hopefully we'll beat Brisbane or Auckland away. We can't win the European Super League, so we're going to go all out to get in the quarter-finals."

Penrith at one stage led 32-10, but committed a series of handling errors as they went full-blooded for their target.

St Helens stayed in touch with first-half tries from Anthony Sullivan and Andy Haigh, but it needed a dramatic touchdown six minutes from the end by the stand-off Sean Long to clinch the decisive deficit for them. Their other try-scorers were Danny Arnold and Keiron Cunningham, with Goulding kicking three goals.