‘Effectively cheating’ - Outrage as Wigan Warriors legend takes swipe at St Helens

Tommy Makinson celebrates scoring St Helens' second try. (Photo: Martin Rickett/PA)Tommy Makinson celebrates scoring St Helens' second try. (Photo: Martin Rickett/PA)
Tommy Makinson celebrates scoring St Helens' second try. (Photo: Martin Rickett/PA)
The Saints fans are up in arms at Phil Clarke’s rant on TV.

St Helens’ fans have fired a verbal broadside at former Wigan star and Great Britain international Phil Clarke after remarks he made about the World Club Challenge champions in the aftermath of their win against Huddersfield Giants on Thursday - and I don’t blame them.

Clarke, one of the SKY Sports regular pundits, accused the team which has won the Betfred Super League four times on the bounce of slowing down the ruck too much at the John Smith’s Stadium and deliberately forcing set restarts to win the game, describing it as ‘effectively cheating’.

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Balderdash! Saints didn’t break any of the laws of the game and they won’t care two hoots about the manner in which they successfully repelled the ferocious Giants’ second-half challenge. Victory was the only item at the top of their agenda.

Maybe Clarke’s viewpoint was clouded by the fact that the team at the other side of Billinge Hill, in which he had been one of the outstanding contributors during their reign as top dogs in the sport, has now been superseded by super Saints and he finds it hard to swallow.

I might be wrong, but what I’ve noticed since the beginning of the 2023 season is that many pundits relaying their thoughts on air are trying to find ways Saints can be beaten rather than anything else.

It’s no wonder the Totally Wicked Stadium faithful are up in arms and one response to Clarke’s rant on the Saints’ forum sums it up perfectly.

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He said: "Like many of us, I’ve watched televised sport for many years and I honestly cannot remember a pundit/commentator accusing a club of cheating.

"Clarke and SKY should issue a formal apology to the four times in a row champions and WCC holders. It is beyond the pale that he can get away with this and just excusing him for being a muppet is not going to cut it this time.

"An unguarded slip is forgivable but Clarke has obviously had a particular game (St Helens v Salford) last season hanging on to him like a monkey on his back and has misused his position as a SKY pundit to pass an opinion as fact which is detrimental to both Saints and the game itself.

"Saints should definitely be on SKY’s case over this. He is bringing the game into disrepute by stating that Paul Wellens’ boys are cheats and that the officials are in fact letting them do so. An absolute disgrace."

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Everyone is entitled to an opinion in a free society and while I cannot concur with the 51-year-old ex-Sydney Roosters’ allegation against St Helens, it does go on and steps need to be taken to stamp it out wherever possible.

But that’s not the remit of any former player, past or present. Just leave it in the hands of the people responsible for setting the laws of Rugby League. That’s part of their job.

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