|20th May 2006||PCC5||HOME||10374||HT:6-26|
|Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 26. - ** non-playing sub|
MATCH REPORT : A first-class display put Saints into the Powergen Challenge Cup quarter-final for the sixth successive year with a seven-try demolition of champions Bradford Bulls.
It was a superb team performance, with Daniel Anderson singling out his senior players for praise. “They were all excellent, and there were some special plays”, said the Saints coach.
"Defensively, we were absolutely outstanding in the first half. It was a very intelligent, tough display."
No-one embodies toughness and intelligent play more than hooker Keiron Cunningham, and he was responsible for putting Saints on their way when he barged over from dummy half after just ninety seconds; when he scored his second an hour later the game had long been won.
Before the game, much of the talk, as ever, centred around Bradford’s forward pack, and their influence was expected to increase in the wet conditions that greeted both teams at Knowsley Road.
Instead they were looking for respite from the beginning, and eleven minutes had passed before the Bulls completed a set.
Long launched a huge 40-20 kick, but the video referee disallowed Sculthorpe’s ‘try’ from the resulting possession.
The disappointment didn’t affect Saints’ momentum, and Paul Wellens crossed for Saints second benefiting from Ade Gardner’s alertness, and poor handling by the Bulls.
Francis Meli launched a counter-attack from within his own 20 metres, and his swerving run carved open the defence, allowing Gilmour a free run to the line.
20-0 up after just 30 minutes, there seemed no way back for Bradford, but were handed a lifeline when Sculthorpe lost the ball 10 metres from his own line, and Joe Vagana was on hand to pick up the loose ball and score.
However Bradford’s performance was riddled with errors, and they immediately presented Saints with the opportunity to re-open a 20-point lead when they conceded a drop-out from Long’s drilled restart.
Saints scrum-half was directing proceedings and he thought he had scored himself after intercepting Newton’s pass at the start of the second half, but it was disallowed for offside. Instead it was Fozzard who was next on the scoresheet, crossing for his first try of the season.
Saints’ performance was the result as much of their pressurising defence as it was necessarily of their attacking potency. Meli and Talau’s enthusiastic chase of Long’s grubber forced a drop-out, and moments later the vocal Saints crowd were treated to a vintage try from Cunningham, as he beat five defenders with footwork and force on his way to the try line.
Talau scored Saints’ seventh as the home side’s handling made light of the heavy rain that had persisted throughout the second half.
Michael Withers scored a late double for Bradford to provide some consolation on the scoreboard, but it did little to alter Steve McNamara describing his side as “poor, from the first minute to the last.”
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Cayless, Cunningham, P. Anderson, Sculthorpe, Gilmour, Hooper.
Replacements: V. Anderson, Wilkin, Graham, Fozzard.
T: Cunningham (2), Wellens, Gilmour, Lyon, Fozzard, Talau
G: Lyon (7/7)
Bradford: Withers, Johnson, B. Harris, Hape, Vainikolo, I. Harris, Deacon, Fielden, Newton, Lynch, Meyers, Ferres, Langley.
Replacements: Pryce, Gene, Henderson, Vagana.
T: Withers (2), Vagana
G: Deacon (3/3)
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington)
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