Saints register close-fought

Official English Super League Round 22 game report - Friday 22 July 2005. Full time: Leigh Centurions 20 St Helens 27.

Saints register close-fought victory

Jamie Lyon was the inspiration as St Helens overturned a half-time deficit to break Leigh?s hearts with a 27-20 win and return to the engage Super League summit for the first time in 18 months.

The Australian centre came off the bench to rescue his side with two second-half tries after Saints had been pushed all the way by the spirited Centurions, who led 14-8 at the break courtesy of Danny Halliwell?s stunning hat-trick.

With the scores finely poised at 20-20 with just eight minutes remaining, Jon Wilkin?s drop-goal edged Saints ahead before Lyon?s second try sealed the victory with six minutes remaining in an absorbing encounter.

The result edges Saints one point ahead of Leeds, who will reclaim top spot if they avoid defeat at Warrington on Saturday night as the race for the Minor Premiership intensifies.

St Helens? latest success extended their unbeaten run under new coach Daniel Anderson to nine games, but they will surely require a vast improvement when they meet Hull in next Saturday?s Powergen Challenge Cup semi-final.

Anderson rested skipper Paul Sculthorpe, prop Paul Anderson and full-back Paul Wellens and also took the decision to start with Keiron Cunningham and Lyon on the bench.

The Centurions were boosted by the return of scrum-half Jon Duffy following illness, and it was his clever grubber which allowed Darren Abram?s side to grab a shock lead after just four minutes.

A sustained spell of home pressure culminated in Halliwell latching on to Duffy?s kick in the right-hand corner to register his first try of the season.

The Centurions centre was playing only his sixth game of the season following two leg breaks, and John Wilshere converted before Saints touched down with a quarter of an hour on the clock.

Lee Gilmour found flying winger Darren Albert unmarked in the corner and he touched down his 18th Super League try of the season, although Jason Hooper failed to convert.

Leigh stole further ahead after 22 minutes when Halliwell grabbed his second try after collecting a loose ball close to the St Helens line.

Remarkably, Halliwell completed his hat-trick three minutes later when he scored a try uncannily similar to his first effort.

Again Duffy was the architect with a teasing grubber, and again the ubiquitous Halliwell was on hand to ground the ball to send the noisy Coliseum wild.

Wilshere proved incapable of converting either effort, while Wilkin and Leigh?s Robbie Mears were both sin-binned for holding down and an offside offence respectively.

After Cunningham and Lyon entered the fray as replacements, Saints began to up the tempo, and Hooper collected Cunningham?s offload shortly before the interval to cross the line with ease.

Lyon missed the conversion as Leigh took a 14-8 lead into the dressing-room at the break.

Predictably, Saints improved after the restart and they drew level after 48 minutes when Albert collected Scott Moore?s offload before embarking on a 60-metre run to claim his second try of the game.

Lyon converted to tie the scores at 14-14, but if Saints thought they had tamed the spirited Centurions they were sorely mistaken as the hosts regained the lead two minutes later.

Saints wing Ade Gardner failed to deal with another clever kick from Duffy, who raced forward on to his own kick to ground the loose ball.

Wilshere converted, but Leigh were dealt a blow when Halliwell was stretchered off after sustaining an injury.

St Helens were being forced to play on the counter-attack, but it suited the personnel in their side and Lyon was soon on hand to collect Wilkin?s pass and race over the line for his 17th Super League try of the year.

The Australian centre added the extras to tie the scores at 20-20 in an exhilaratingly high-tempo clash.

With the game finely balanced, Wilkin added a drop goal after 72 minutes before Lyon?s second touchdown sealed victory and left Leigh teetering on the brink of relegation.

Leigh: Wilshere, Maden, Cooper, Halliwell, Smyth, P. Jones, J. Duffy, Fleary, Mears, Stapleton, Marshall, Leafa, Kent. Replacements: Sturm, Stevens, Rowley, Jackson.

St Helens: Hardman, Albert, V. Anderson, Talau, Gardner, Moore, Hooper, Fozzard, Roby, Graham, Gilmour, Bennett, Wilkin. Replacements: Lyon, Fa'asavalu, Cunningham, Mason.

Leigh: (14) 20. Tries: Halliwell 3, J. Duffy. Goals: Wilshere 2.

St Helens: (8) 27. Tries: Albert 2, Hooper, Lyon 2. Goals: Lyon 3. Drop Goals: Wilkin.

Referee: Ian Smith (Oldham)

Att: 5,142

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