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Page last updated at 20:55 GMT, Friday, 10 September 2010 21:55 UK

St Helens 28-12 Warrington Wolves

St Helens (18) 28
Tries: Wellens, Cunningham, Graham, Flannery
Goals:
Foster 6

Warrington (8) 12
Tries: King 2, Bridge


Jamie Foster
Saints' Jamie Foster was successful with six of his seven attempts at goal

St Helens booked their place in the Super League play-off semi-finals as they came from behind to stun Warrington at slippery Knowsley Road.

In-form Wolves looked on the way to a cakewalk when they crossed twice in the opening six minutes through Matt King.

But Saints hit back with tries from Paul Wellens, Keiron Cunningham, James Graham and Chris Flannery before Chris Bridge finally responded for Wolves.

And, while Jamie Foster kicked six goals, Warrington missed all theirs.

That means Saints' final game at Knowsley Road in a fortnight's time will be a fifth successive Super League semi-final.

And that should mean another chance for Salford-bound scrum-half Matty Smith, who temporarily returned from his initial season's loan at The Willows to turn in a superb display on his first start in two and a half years.

After coming in as a replacement when Jonny Lomax joined Leon Pryce and Kyle Eastmond on the Saints' injured half-back list, Smith tormented Warrington with his clever kicking game, eclipsing Lee Briers.

Challenge Cup winners Warrington had also been hit by a late withdrawal, Wembley hat-trick hero Chris Hicks being forced out with a back injury, which allowed Bridge to stay at centre, while King moved out to the flank.

But Hicks' late withdrawal certainly did not prove an early handicap for the Wolves in nasty, wet conditions.

Inside two minutes, King had slid in at the right corner after slick handling all the way down the line in a move orchestrated by Briers' long pass.

And, only four minutes later, while Saints had cause to bemoan a stray elbow by Jon Clarke on James Graham which caused the home side to concede possession from a penalty, King again raced in to score.

Warrington looked bang on course to register their first win at Knowsley Road for 16 years.

But the Wolves have not been totally comfortable with their kicking all season, Westwood crucially missing with both touchline conversions.

And, on 14 minutes, when Saints ran in their first try, which was converted, instead of being 12-0 down as they might have been, the home side were back to within two points at 8-6.

The artful Smith squeezed through a clever grubber kick which deflected off the post before falling kindly for the outstretched arm of Wellens.

And, with Foster having duly slotted the extras, Saints went in front for the first time when Cunningham came up with a vintage piece of old magic.

Matt King
King gave Warrington a flying start with two tries in the first six minutes

From dummy half, the Saints veteran foxed the Wolves defence by making a solo break for the line from 20 yards out, before pirouetting superbly and then having the strength to power over.

Foster missed that one but he was on target again on 35 minutes when Graham, who ended the night groggy from one too many blows to the head, wriggled in for try number three.

Foster's boot stretched Saints further clear just before the break as outgoing boss Mick Potter saw his men head down the tunnel with an 18-8 lead.

Foster then added two more early second-half penalties before, from Smith's high, deep bomb, Saints got away with their one slice of luck on the night.

Warrington winger Chris Riley was clearly taken out by Foster, but referee Richard Silverwood allowed play to progress and Potter's men picked up the pieces for Flannery to cross.

Foster missed the kick and there was brief hope for Warrington when they added a third try with still 20 minutes left.

Bridge, fresh from his 20-point return against Harlequins last weekend after two months out with a shoulder injury, charged down an attempted clearance by Jon Wilkin, Smith's unlikely half-back partner.

But even Bridge could not convert his own try from fairly close to the posts. And Foster showed him how it should be done when he nailed his third penalty of the night.

That sealed Saints' latest win over Warrington, who have now astonishingly now won just one of the two sides' last 41 meetings.

King, Lee Briers, Louis Anderson and Ben Westwood and skipper Adrian Morley were all back after a fortnight's rest having starred in the Wolves' 30-6 Challenge Cup final demolition of Leeds at Wembley.

But Potter's men, who had only sealed second place, and home advantage for this game, by the narrowest of margins last weekend, were the better side by far on a filthy, wet night on Merseyside.

Saints men now have the advantage of a week off to get their injured players fit for a fourth successive tilt at Old Trafford.

By contrast, after a first defeat in six games, Warrington must play again next week in the elimination semis, as they get a second chance to reach the last four.


St Helens coach Mick Potter said:

"My assistant coach Keiron Purtill mentioned Matty Smith in passing and it went from there. We thought 'let's check' and it snowballed very quickly.

"He's already proved his worth with Salford and, even if he doesn't play another game, he's helped take us one step closer.

"His kicking game, his prowess and his knowledge of Knowsley Road was helpful but him being available was the key. We didn't really have anyone else. Our other option was young Jamie Ellis who is just back from a knee re-construction."

Warrington coach Tony Smith said:

"Matty Smith looked sharp and probably reminded them what they're going to miss out on.

"He's a talented young player and has played pretty well in a team at the bottom end. But it shows what he can do when you put him in a team like that. I'm sure he'd love to play with their forwards every week.

"It was a nice start. We executed some things that we practised very well but then we lost our way and we didn't play to the conditions as well as our opponents. They kept it very simple and they had a tremendous kicking game."


St Helens: Wellens, Foster, Gidley, Meli, Gardner, Wilkin, Smith, Graham, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Soliola, Flannery, Puletua.
Replacements: Roby, Clough, Dixon, Emmitt.

Warrington: Mathers, King, Bridge, Atkins, Riley, Briers, Monaghan, Morley, Clarke, Carvell, L Anderson, Westwood, Harrison.
Replacements: Myler, Wood, Cooper, Solomona.

Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).

Attendance: 14,632.



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see also
St Helens 40-30 Castleford
04 Sep 10 |  My Club
Harlequins 22-36 Warrington
03 Sep 10 |  My Club
Smith stands by for Saints recall
08 Sep 10 |  St Helens
Warrington 24-26 St Helens
31 Jul 10 |  My Club
St Helens 28-18 Warrington
19 Mar 10 |  My Club
Rugby League on the BBC
15 Oct 10 |  Rugby League
Rugby league commentaries
03 Apr 10 |  Rugby League


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