St Helens picked up their first win at their adopted Widnes home with a five-try defeat of former coach Mick Potter’s Bradford.
It was a more than welcome victory for Saints who finally showed signs of converting their away form into a performance at the Stobart Stadium, a fortnight after the shock defeat against Harlequins.
Bradford started well and grabbed the first score of the game in the fifth minute. Jamie Langley cut through the midfield before being hauled down from Paul Wellens, and the Bulls took advantage of an unset Saints defence, with Shaun Ainscough winning the foot race to pounce on Marc Herbert‘s perfectly weighted kick.
The home faithful feared the worst when the Bulls piled more pressure on the Saints line, but the defence stood firm, particularly after Herbert leaped highest to pluck a Brett Kearney kick out of the air before being held up.
Saints started to come out of their shell on the quarter hour mark, Francis Meli‘s strong run getting the crowd on their feet, and a few sets later, quick hands created an overlap for winger Jamie Foster to squeeze over for the first of his two tries.
It was in fact the first time Saints had scored in the first half of a home game all season and they added to it when Paul Wellens took a pass on the burst to carry a few defenders over the line and put his 10-6 in front.
Bradford were then dealt a blow late in the first half when Paul Sykes was sin binned for interference in the tackle, and Saints took full advantage of their extra man as Wellens added his second try from Lomax’s short pass.
Saints started the second period strongly and they added another try before Sykes’ returning, Foster crossing in the corner after Lomax took the last tackle play down the blindside.
The Bulls, however, were handed two lifelines in a three minute spell. First Patrick Ah Van crossed for a try to bring them within three scores, before Sia Soliola was given ten minutes in the bin.
From the resulting penalty, the visitors wasted their chance and they were pegged back further when Foster slotted over a penalty to tick the clock down and put Saints 28-10 ahead.
Saints were down to 11 men when Michael Shenton was yellow carded but the Bulls never looked like mounting a comeback, despite adding gloss to the scoreline with Ainscough’s second try, from another smartly taken Herbert kick.
The win lifts Royce Simmons’ side in to third in the table, but perhaps more importantly lifts their Stobart Stadium hoodoo.
Team: Wellens, Gardner, Shenton, Meli, Foster, Gaskell, Lomax, Graham, Roby, Perry, Flannery, Soliola, Puletua. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wheeler, Ashurst, Magennis.
Tries: Foster 5, 44; Wellens 22, 38; Flannery 47.
Goals: Foster 3/5
Team: Sykes, Ainscough, Platt, Royston, Ah Van, Kearney, Herbert, Lynch, Diskin, Hargreaves, Elima, Whitehead, Langley. Subs: Scruton, L’Estrange, Kopczak, Olbison.
Tries: Ainscough 4, 78; Ah Van 64.
Goals: Ah Van 2/3