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Altrincham Kersal 6 Liverpool St Helens 25
11:28am Tuesday 8th January 2013 in Sport
Liverpool St Helens returned to the top of North One West with a convincing display at Altrincham Kersal, a place where they have not had much joy in the past.
There was no mistake this time however, as a typically robust performance built on hard work from everyone, proved to be too much for their hosts.
In a game in which neither side bothered greatly about those wearing numbers 10 to 15, LSH held the edge throughout the game and were always in control. They came out best in what was a messy breakdown, particularly in the second half. Skipper Jan Lourens led from the front on a day when the younger LSH contingent all made an impact.
Josh Grant-Butler has grown in stature all season and put in a big shift at loose head prop; number 8 Sean Mackin was non-stop all afternoon; winger Jake Hodson, after a shaky start, impressed, particularly in defence and scrum half Matt Gaines, as well as notching the crucial first try, had an excellent game.
LSH went ahead in the fourth minute after an Ian Stanley kick and chase was followed up by a three phase attack bringing a penalty converted by Greg Smith. Kersal retaliated with a good spell of their own each time being foiled by powerful tackling from the LSH defence. Neil Hull, in particular, playing in the centre, made a number of crucial tackles throughout the game as did his midfield partner Dave Cunliffe.
LSH went further ahead in the 17th minute when, after strong pressure from a catch and drive and a number of near misses, Matt Gaines dived through a gap to score at the side of the post, Smith converting. When given the chance to run both LSH wingers Matt Cunliffe and Hodson did so but their efforts came to nothing as the first half came to a close amidst a flurry of penalties, one each kicked by Smith for LSH and James Nettleton for Altrincham Kersal.
Dave Cunliffe was held up over the line as LSH pressed early in the second half before Kersal fought back.
Full back JP Singleton almost brought them back into the game with a scything long distance run before being hauled down 10 yards short of the line. Nettleton slotted another penalty after 65 minutes but with the game now seemingly in the balance LSH produced a powerful finish.
Two tries in the last ten minutes from Mark Williams and Sean Mackin, almost identical in build up and execution put matters beyond doubt. The first, in the 71st minute, came from a series of drives before Williams peeled off to power over the line, Smith converting. Seven minutes later a sequence of scrums close to the ri