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Round 6: Saints too good
Former Bradford favourite Leon Pryce helped wreck his old club?s 18-match unbeaten run in Friday night?s engage Super League table-topping clash at Knowsley Road as St Helens got bast the Bulls 38-16.
Pryce, who left his home-town team after last October?s Grand Final triumph, scored his first try for St Helens and helped set up another for winger Francis Meli as Saints overcame the shock of conceding a seventh-minute try.
Saints? ultimately comfortable win enabled them to preserve their 100% record while Bradford drop to third place after losing for the first time since last July.
The champions, who gave a debut to former Castleford prop Adam Watene, dominated the opening quarter but failed to make the most of the pressure and crucially lost skipper Iestyn Harris with an arm injury midway through the first half.
They went in front when centre Ben Harris was gifted a try from Meli?s fumble behind his own line and Paul Deacon, who used a stiff breeze to keep the home side pinned back for long periods, added the conversion from wide out to give his team a 6-0 lead.
But Bradford also lost Deacon and second rower Paul Johnson through injury - the latter on the 200th appearance of his career - and the game gradually turned Saints? way.
Meli pulled a try back after finishing a smart passing move that also involved former Bradford second rower Lee Gilmour and they shrugged off the loss of full-back Paul Wellens with an eye injury to seize control.
The introduction of strong-running forward Maurie Fa?asavalu injected new enthusiasm into their ranks and two further tries in a five-minute spell turned the game their way. Sean Long and Pryce forced their way over from close range and Jamie Lyon added both conversions to put his side 16-6 ahead.
Bradford did not help themselves when Deacon kicked the ball dead from the re-start but they hit back just before half-time when Saints were temporarily reduced to 12 men.
Loose forward Jason Hooper was shown the yellow card for a late tackle on Deacon and Bradford immediately made the extra man pay, with Shontayne Hape bursting over from Deacon?s short pass.
Deacon?s second goal cut the gap to just four points but that was as good as it got for the champions.
The swirling wind which caused all sorts of problems for Saints early in the game came to their aid three minutes into the second half.
Bradford winger Lesley Vainikolo put his side under pressure with a knock-on and, when he failed to compete with opposite number Ade Gardner for the ball moments later, it fell kindly into the arms of the St Helens winger over the line.
Lyon?s third goal made it 22-12 and Saints ought to have been out of sight three minutes later when Pryce, now playing at full-back, cut through the Bulls defence to give Long a clear run to the line.
It should have been a simple score but Long dived early and slow-motion replays clearly showed the ball come loose, giving video referee Steve Presley no option but to disallow the try.
It merely delayed the inevitable, however, as Saints strengthened their hold on the game. Long used the wind to set up a perfect attacking position with a 40-20 kick and hooker Keiron Cunningham burrowed his way over in typical fashion from dummy half for his side?s fifth try.
Meli, who easily made amends for his early defensive blemish, grabbed his second try, finishing off a clean break by substitute Jon Wilkin, and Gardner also claimed his second try as Saints finished in overwhelming control.
The Bulls were a well-beaten side but they had the consolation of scoring the last try when Hape finished off well at the corner.
St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, P. Anderson, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Sculthorpe, Hooper. Replacements: Roby, Wilkin, Graham, Fa'asavalu.
Bradford: Withers, Bai, B. Harris, Hape, Vainikolo, I. Harris, Deacon, Fielden, Henderson, Lynch, McKenna, Johnson, Langley. Replacements: Gene, Pryce, Vagana, Watene.
St Helens (16) 38. Tries: Meli 2, Long, Pryce, Gardner 2, Cunningham. Goals: Lyon 5.
Bradford (12) 16. Tries: B. Harris, Hape 2. Goals: Deacon 2.
Referee: A Klein (London)