Saints savour taste of success after barren run

Halifax 18 St Helens 26
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The Independent Online
May was the cruellest month for St Helens, but they started June with a victory that was as uplifting as it was unexpected.

A team largely composed of reserves, with an 18-year-old debutant in Jason Johnson at stand-off, performed magnificently to build up a 26-point lead against all the odds at Thrum Hall. They then showed limitless reserves of enthusiasm to hold off the inevitable Halifax backlash and record the club's first win since Wembley.

The vibrant spirit that Saints displayed will do much to wipe out the unhappy memories of what has happened since, but they also needed a little good fortune to start them on their way. Their first try, scored by Anthony Sullivan after six minutes, seemed to include a forward pass, but any further luck that Saints enjoyed they thoroughly earned.

On 14 minutes, Bobbie Goulding, marshalling the young players around him with great authority, spotted a gap behind Halifax's rearguard and the race to his kick was won by Danny Arnold.

Halifax were not helping themselves, Martin Pearson's wild pass being scooped up by Vila Matautia, who found Sullivan supporting him on his shoulder to claim his second try. Then, right on the stroke of half-time, Alan Hunte, one potent attacker returning to Saints' ranks last night, cashed in on some brilliant running by Chris Morley and Arnold to go over for their fourth try.

They carried on the second half, Goulding dribbling the ball past the Halifax defence before side-footing it into the corner for Arnold to emulate Sullivan by grabbing his second.

Halifax tend to play to their potential for only part of the game and this was where they started in earnest. Chris Chester's dummy began the fightback and David Bouveng took an inside pass from Pearson for a second try.

When Martin Moana got through to make it three in 10 minutes, it seemed Saints' lead would not be sufficient to save them, but, with loose forward Dean Busby outstanding, theyhung on.

Halifax: Umaga; Amone, Moana, Bouveng, Tuilagi; Pearson, Dean; Harrison, Rowley, Slicker, Highton, Gillespie, Chester. Substitutes used: Powell, Munro, Jackson. Substitute not used: Bastian.

St Helens: Haigh; Arnold, Hunte, Matautia, Ivan; Johnson, Goulding; Leatham, Anderson, O'Neill, Booth, Morley, Busby. Substitutes used: Barrow, Shiel, Cross, O'Loughlin.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).

Bradford, the Super League leaders, go into the World Club Championship on the back of a 40-24 win at Salford. Graeme Bradley was superb, including two tries in a fine performance.