Bridge makes two-try return but Saints take the points
Warrington Wolves 10 St Helens 22
Match Fact: Ryan Atkins made his 100th club appearance for Warrington
By Alan Domville (photo courtesy of Neil Ashurst)
Chris Bridge scored two tries on his return after a long lay-off but it was two early touchdowns that gave St Helens a lead they never lost to win their third game in succession at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, enabling them to draw level with the Wolves on the fringes of Super League's top places.
Wolves made a spirited fight back in the third quarter after Bridge's first try on the stroke of half time had put them back in the match but James Roby settled the issue when he collected a loose ball in the tackle and raced round the posts.
Both sides were keen to return to winning ways after losing to Yorkshire opposition last week and Warrington were able to field a stronger side than they had at Hull Kingston Rovers last Sunday..
In addition to bringing back Bridge after his knee surgery and his successful outings with partner club Swinton, Tony Smith was able to call on Michael and Joel Monaghan again but Lee Briers and Trent Waterhouse, who missed the match at Hull were unavailable along with long-term injured Adrian Morley and Ben Harrison.
St Helens were without Paul Wellens, who injured his calf some weeks ago, and Gary Wheeler who ruptured a hamstring tendon playing against Leeds last Friday.
Coach Nathan Brown was able to bring back Lance Hohaia following a shoulder injury - he looked sharp all night - and Mark Flanagan who had suffered concussion. He also included his new season's signings from Hull, Jordan Turner and Willie Manu.
There was no room, however, for Mark Percival who made an outstanding debut last week, nor ex-Batley Bulldogs player Alex Walmsley who was unable to make his debut last week after being caught up traffic on the M62.
The visitors' first attack brought six more tackles and Turner leapt over for a try in the left hand corner after racing between two defenders.
Jonny Lomax failed with his kick but Saints came tearing in again. Their sortie was thwarted by Bridge, attempting an interception, but it gave Saints another set from 20 metres out and this time Hohaia plunged over near the posts,
Lomax added the extras and it was 10-0 in as many minutes.
Wolves hit back but the move ended when Ryan Atkins couldn't gather a pass that went around his head.
Another attack floundered when Brett Hodgson's pass to Atkins was ruled forward.
The home crowd were becoming agitated by St Helens's delaying tactics after the tackle but on attack the visitors were looking sharper.
When they did score again, however, the decision went upstairs to Ian Smith who was happy Meli had not stepped into touch before scoring.
Saints looked like going further ahead and had the line at their mercy when Chris Riley was pushed out of the way before he could make a tackle.
Towering kicks by Stefan Ratchford and Richard Myler, both looking international class, troubled Saints at the back on several occasions but they held firm.
Three minutes before the interval a long pass went too far in front of Riley to catch.
Saints then scorched upfield and had a four to one advantage 30 metres out but were called back by Richard Silverwood who had spotted a knock on at the start of the move.
With just a minute left, Warrington swept the ball to their left and taking a pass from Myler, Bridge was able to celebrate his return with a fine try in the corner.
Hodgson missed with his conversion attempt but Wolves were still in with a shout.
And straight from the restart after the break they looked altogether sharper and more determined.
Bridge beat several defenders with a powerful run, a kick through by Myler was knocked on, Ben Westwood and Mike Cooper went close and Saints had to concede a drop-out.
The visitors were only able to get out of their own half with kicks - but they came close to scoring when Roby put Joe Greenwood over but he wasn't able to ground the ball.
A Michael Monaghan kick over the Saints line put the visitors under pressure again but they managed to keep the ball in play.
For 21 minutes there was no score - but then Saints were awarded a penalty for a high tackle 30 metres out and Lomax made it 16-4.
Then came the game-breaker. Roby was able to collect the ball when it went loose in a tackle on Chris Hill and he raced over. Lomax added the goal points and it was 22-4.
But Warrington were not giving up and great work by Ratchford and Hill put them back on the offensive and led to Saints conceding another drop out.
From this Michael Monaghan and Myler combined well and Bridge was able to score near the posts, Hodgson added the goal but only four minutes remained.
Head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said: "I think a lot of the damage was done in the first 20 minutes or so. We were making way too many errors - some forced some unforced. Saints were terrific in their defence in the early part of it and it rattled us a little bit I think. At times instead of having some patience and sticking with it, we started to try to force things and that's all credit to Saints.
"I thought we had a few blemishes in defence early on but after that I thought it was really evenly matched throughout the whole game. I thought it was a fantastic game if we could have written off the first 20 - but we had the first 20 and that was their platform, after that we had to try and catch up and we weren't quite good enough to do that tonight.
"Credit to all players who were out there I thought it was a really good spectacle and played in good spirit. Sometimes you hold your hand up and say the opposition were better and they were tonight, but I thought our defence improved as the game went on tonight.
"I think there's a lot better Rugby League to come. It's tough to play good, expansive Rugby League in these conditions especially with training the way it is. It's difficult to get time, and quality time, on the field to really hone your skills. I don't think anybody's hit top form yet or open flowing Rugby League; it's been tough (tonight) and I enjoyed the battle of it."
Brett Hodgson, Chris Riley, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler, Paul Wood, Michael Monaghan, Chris Hill, Simon Grix, Ben Westwood, Mike Cooper
Subs: Garreth Carvell, Micky Higham, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Currie
Tries: Bridge (2)
Jonny Lomax, Ade Gardner, Jordan Turner, Josh Jones, Francis Meli, Lance Hohaia, Jon Wilkin, Anthony Laffranchi, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sia Soliola, Willie Manu, Mark Flanagan
Subs: Tony Puletua, Paul Clough, Anthony Walker, Joe Greenwood
Tries: Turner, Hohaia, Meli, Roby
Goals: Lomax (3)
Half Time: 4-14
Full Time: 10-22
Game photos below: Courtesy of Bob Brough
08, Mar, 2013