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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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St Helens' Walney ace Gardner on the march

WALNEY wing wizard Ade Gardner is confident St Helens can build on their amazing victory over Leeds Rhinos last week.

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VICTORY ROAR: Ade Gardner celebrates scoring for St Helens against Leeds Rhinos last week MARTIN RICKETT/PA WIRE

Saints crushed the reigning Super League champions 46-6 on Sunday and head to Warrington tonight instilled with a new vitality and confidence.

Gardner scored two tries in the victory over Leeds, which came in the week coach Royce Simmons and assistant Keiron Purtill were dismissed following a disastrous start to the campaign, and he feels the team are heading in the right direction once again.

“I respected Royce,” said Gardner, who is coming towards the end of his testimonial year, more than a decade after he joined Saints from Barrow. “He’s a fantastic bloke and we all felt bad, not just for him but for Kieron (Puritll) as well, who was fantastic as well.

“Things didn’t go well towards the end of their reign and I think the boys took a little bit of that responsibility, like we should.

“We all felt bad and I think we just all wanted to go out there and just prove to people that we were capable of it.

“The best thing that Keiron Cunningham and Mike Rush (the new coaching team) did was to make training pretty light-hearted, so we had as much fun as we could to take our minds off the situation that was building up. I felt we just went out and showed that on the pitch on Sunday.”

He added: “We’ve got Warrington on Friday – they don’t get much bigger than that – and then the big, big one against Wigan on Good Friday at home – the first Good Friday game at Langtree Park.

“They are two massive games for us to keep our focus.”

Gardner missed much of last season with a ruptured Achilles and has been keen to get back to regular action this term.

Simmons’s initial rotation policy prevented him from establishing himself in the side, but he was happy with the way he played against Leeds and is now aiming for more success.

“I was happy with the way I went against Leeds,” the 28-year-old said.

“It has been a difficult start to the season with us not performing, though I thought I had played pretty well when I had the opportunity.

“The one frustrating thing for me was the rotation policy at the start of the season, so it’s hard to get consistency.

“That was the one thing I wanted to get under my belt with missing so much of last season, to get some more game time. I know where Royce was coming from with the rotation policy, with it being a long season, which is the luxury of having a fully-fit squad and so many quality boys about.

“Hopefully now I can just get an extended run and build on the performance at the weekend. It would be nice to sneak over for a couple more tries come the end of the year.”

Gardner’s injury-enforced absence did allow him to spend more time working on his testimonial year, which he will bring to a close with two final sportsman’s dinners – one in St Helens and one in Barrow.

The Barrow event will take place at the Lisdoonie Hotel, on Saturday, May 5, with guest including Saints players Paul Wellens, Jon Wilkin and other members of the squad.

Cunningham had been lined up as the main speaker, but his new coaching duties mean he may be unable to attend.

Gardner said: “We will have a bit of a Q&A like we did in Barrow last year and then we will have a speaker as well, who is to be confirmed, but will hopefully be a bit of a big name.”

Tickets for the event, which will start at 7.30pm, cost £25 per head and are available from Anthony Horton on 07912 018427.

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