Paul Wellens hits back at Phil Clarke’s “cheating” comments

St Helens ground out a brilliant win over Huddersfield Giants last week as they won 14-12 at the John Smith’s stadium.

Leading 12-6 at half time the Saints hung on throughout a second-half in which Huddersfield dominated possession and territory.

In part that was because of the huge number of ‘six again’ restarts that referee Jack Smith called against St Helens and as such Huddersfield had the ball in hand for plenty of time.

A prime example of this was in man of the match Matty Lees made a huge 68 tackles across the game.

During Lees’ post-match interview he references Saints’ ability to defend multiple sets on the bounce, and that was something that Sky pundit Phil Clarke took issue with.

“Maybe when they’re prepared to defend on their own try line, maybe one of the reasons why Huddersfield and other teams can’t score against St Helens is that they’d rather slow down the opposition and concede six more tackles in the belief that, ‘we’ll defend, as long as it’s not quick, we can defend our try line for two minutes’.

“Maybe that’s something that the game’s administrators needs to look at.”

He then further went on to state that St Helens secured victory over Salford in 2022 via similar methods, going as far to label it as “cheating”.

“They played a game last year against Salford at the end where they effectively cheated at the end to win the match in the league match.

“I do think that the game needs to be stricter at penalising sides that are purposefully holding down players or concede penalties or six agains near to their own try line.

“We need to see more yellow cards for that type of behaviour.”

Now, speaking on Saints TV, Saints boss Paul Wellens has hit back at these comments.

He said:

“I won’t say I’ve investigated the statistics but I’ve known something for quite a while and not mentioned it. What I will say first and foremost is that I don’t think there’s a coach in Super League, the NRL or anywhere in the world who isn’t trying to get their players to win tackles and in effect slow down the opposition.

“There’s no coach that would prefer to concede a try than to give away a six again and we’re no different there.

“What I will say around Phil Clarke is I like Phil, I’ve always respected him and his right to his opinion, and that’s not changed. But at the same time I do think it was probably a little bit ill-judged, particularly when you sue the word cheating.

“If there’s one thing this team hasn’t done, it’s cheated their way to success over the last few years.

“When you talk about the ruck area in terms of facts and the Opta statistics is that when in 2021 when we won the competition we had the average slowest play the ball in the competition.

“In 2022 when we won the competition we had the slowest play the ball, and this year we currently sit joint last at the moment in terms of the average play the ball speed again.

“So I would ask Phil the question of who’s lying on who? Because with the devastating ball carriers we have, we don’t have much luck in terms of coming out on top in terms of average play the ball speed.

“That’s food for thought the other way.”

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david fairclough
david fairclough
2 months ago

As usual another bitter ex wiganer cannot come to terms with saints success.Using words like cheating is is potentially slanderous so i would expect a full public apology from mr clarke.