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Page last updated at 22:30 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Wakefield 18-42 St Helens

Wakefield (12) 18
Tries: Snitch, Murphy, Atkins Goals: Brough 3

St Helens (22) 42
Tries: Graham, Wheeler, Gidley, Pryce 3, Puletua, Gardner Goals: Wheeler 3, Gidley 2


Leon Walker
Walker's funeral will be held on Thursday, 2 April in Leeds

Wakefield were overpowered by St Helens in their first game since the death of reserve player Leon Walker.

The crowd observed a moving minute's silence for the 20-year-old, who died during a reserve match on Sunday.

Steve Snitch and Aaron Murphy scored for the Wildcats but James Graham and Gareth Wheeler put Saints ahead.

Three second-half tries from Leon Pryce and scores from Matt Gidley, Tony Puletua and Ade Gardner sealed victory while Ryan Atkins scored a consolation.

A sombre Belle Vue observed a minute's silence impeccably before the game in memory of Walker, who collapsed and died during a reserve match against Celtic Crusaders.

The crowd paid their respects as Walker's parents and team-mates gathered on the field before the match while a television interview with his family was shown on the big screen.

Wakefield's Danny Brough got the game under way at a windy Belle Vue as the players and crowd focused on the game in hand.

The home side made the perfect start just 80 seconds into the game when Brough's delicate kick bounced off the post into the path of Snitch who touched down unchallenged.

606: DEBATE
simontemplar

Brough put the simple conversion between the posts with ease.

After relentless St Helens pressure, brought about partly by poor kicking from Wakefield, prop Graham collected Jon Wilkin's inside pass to burst through and finish off a flowing St Helens move.

Graham barely celebrated at an eerily quiet Belle Vue before Wheeler converted comfortably to pull the game level.

That try looked like it would open the floodgates when, within minutes, 19-year-old Wheeler showed his quality, skill and quick feet, to ride four challenges before darting through and touching down.

Wheeler converted to put the visitors six points ahead.

Wakefield hit back through Murphy after a series of quick offloads created space for the teenager to burst through on the left-hand side and cross the line to a huge roar from the home crowd. Brough added the extras from a tight angle.

An offload it was though that undid Wakefield in the next St Helens attack when a mistake by captain Jason Demetriou was picked up by Wheeler who found Wilkin in space. Wilkin launched a neat kick which Gidley latched onto to score his fifth try of 2009.

Wheeler added the extras comfortably.

St Helens continued to charge forward, oozing class to carve open the home side's defence again as it parted to let Pryce through to touchdown.

This time Wheeler missed his conversion for the first time.

Pryce touched down for his second try of the night in his 101st St Helens appearance when a six-pass move from Saints created space for him to charge though and take the game further from the reach of the home side. Gidley added the extras.

A delayed pass found Puletua who extended Saints' advantage before Gidley converted as the visitors threatened to run away with the game.

Saints continued to burst through at will and a powerful low drive from Gardner in the corner kept the points difference increasing, although Gidley could not add the extras.

Atkins added a consolation try for Wakefield with a bustling move, dragging two Saints men across the line with him.

St Helens showed why they are the most likely challengers to Leeds in Super League this season when Pryce, who has been warned by a judge that he could face imprisonment over assault charges, capped a fine personal performance with a hat-trick try late on to seal a convincing eight try to three victory.


Wakefield coach John Kear:
"It's a terrible day to tell you the truth. We didn't play very well at all and it was most un-Wakefield-like from our previous experiences.

"We were strong enough not to use the difficult week that we've had as an excuse.

"But we underperformed. It was a night when we wanted to perform well but we didn't.

"They worked very hard to give a proper and fitting send-off to one of our young players. I would think that every one of the players and the coaching staff will want to go to Leon's funeral (next Thursday) because he was one of us."

St Helens coach Mick Potter:
"I thought we handled things very professionally, with the circumstances that surrounded tonight's game.

"We played our part in a fitting tribute to a young fellow who had his life cut short. After that we had to be focused and we did that professionally."

Potter on the selection of Leon Pryce:
"If he had asked to be left out I would have considered it, but it never crossed my mind.

"Leon just followed on from where he left off against Leeds last week. I thought he cracked the whip, carried the football and showed real professionalism."


Wakefield: Blaymire, Blanch, Gleeson, Atkins, Murphy, Grix, Brough, Wilkes, Leo-Latu, Pitts, Snitch, Ferguson, Demetriou.
Replacements: Bibb for Wilkes (26), Henderson for Pitts (28), Sculthorpe for Snitch (32). Substitutes: Obst.

St Helens: Lomax, Gardner, Gidley, Gilmour, Meli, Wheeler, Pryce, Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Wilkin, Flannery, Clough.
Replacements: Fa'asavalu for Graham (30), Ashurst for Cunningham (32), Cayless for Hargreaves (20), Puletua for Clough (24).

Att: 6,038

Ref: T Alibert (Toulouse).



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see also
Injury 'not cause of rugby death'
27 Mar 09 |  Bradford
McClennan shares Wakefield pain
26 Mar 09 |  Leeds
RFL launches Walker death inquiry
23 Mar 09 |  Wakefield
Rugby league player dies in game
22 Mar 09 |  Rugby League
Fa'asavalu handed one-match ban
10 Mar 09 |  St Helens
Rugby stars face jail over attack
26 Mar 09 |  Merseyside
St Helens 26-18 Leeds
20 Mar 09 |  Rugby League
Wakefield 30-10 Catalans
15 Mar 09 |  Rugby League
Wildcats in Watene shirt tribute
16 Dec 08 |  Wakefield
Memorial service for rugby player
22 Oct 08 |  Bradford
Rugby league player dies suddenly
13 Oct 08 |  Bradford


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