5:41pm Sunday 10th February 2013
SAINTS edged a stormy derby encounter at the Stobart Stadium – but they were aided in their mission by the sending off of Vikings prop Ben Cross midway through the second half.
The game was delicately poised at 4-4 when the veteran Australian went high on Saints skipper Paul Wellens.
The ensuing melee also resulted in Vikings skipper Jon Clarke being handed a yellow card.
And in the ten minute spell when Saints had a two-man advantage the visitors took the lead for the first time and then there was no way back for the Vikings.
It was a game that both teams lost players, with Saints prop Josh Perry off after five minutes with a serious knee injury and Vikings centre Cameron Phelps sustaining an ankle injury.
Saints also lost Lance Hohaia with a AC joint injury 13 minutes from time to give coach Nathan Brown a few selection headaches for next week.
It was, however, a proper gritty derby which stirred the emotions of the 8,322 crowd.
Despite being on the back of an 11-3 first half penalty count, it was Vikings who took the lead when Stefan Marsh collected Paddy Flynn’s offload from a Joe Mellor kick to touch down.
Despite having plenty of ball, courtesy of a big penalty count piggy back, Saints seemed incapable of creating an opening with their early attacking plays often laboured and easily smothered by the Vikings defence.
However on 18 minutes, after earlier being bundled into touch from a similar move, Francis Meli cashed in on good work from Jonny Lomax.
Lomax was unable to add the extras and that is how it stayed until the break.
Widnes, however, put on some good pressure towards the close of the half and it took good tackles from Wellens and Jordan Turner on Willie Isa and Cameron Phelps to keep the hosts at bay.
Vikings lost Phelps, who was carried off on a stretcher, and he was soon followed down the tunnel, albeit temporarily, by a groggy looking Lomax.
And Vikings rallied from that point with another 70 metre break down the left, where Hock’s presence was making an impact.
A high tackle from Hohaia at one end of the field was followed by a heavy one from Cross on Wellens at the other end, sparking a free-for-all on the hour mark.
The referee despatched Cross with a red and Clarke with a yellow, which served to give Saints’ rusty attack something of a leg up.
And towards the end of Clarke’s spell in the bin, Lee Gaskell threaded his way through to nudge Saints through. The stand off tagged on the extras and Saints were avble to close the game down from there.
As Widnes tried to force play from deep, Lomax, back in the fray from his spell of stargazing, picked up a stray pass to send Meli in.
Gaskell, who grew in confidence as the game progressed, again added the conversion to put an emphatic look to a much closer encounter.
Vikings, however, can claim a lot of credit too with a nuggety effort off the bench from prop Phil Joseph.
Widnes: Briscoe; Flynn, Marsh, Phelps, Isa; Mellor, Hanbury; Cross, Clarke, O’Carroll, Allen, Leuluai, Cahill. Subs: White, Hock, Joseph, Gerrard.
Saints: Wellens; Makinson, Turner, Jones, Meli; Gaskell, Lomax; Perry, Hohaia, Laffranchi, Soliola, Wilkin, Manu. Subs: Greenwood, Flanagan, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Puletua.
Ref: James Child
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