Send us news by text, start your message World News and your send photos and videos to 80360
Vikings can claim a moral victory despite derby defeat
3:09pm Thursday 14th February 2013 in Sport
VIKINGS’ wait for their first win over their neighbours since 1994 goes on, but at least they can claim something of a moral victory from this feisty encounter.
Despite being on the back of an heavily lop-sided first half penalty count Widnes defended resolutely to keep the Saints at bay, with the scores level at the hour mark.
But with the game delicately poised Ben Cross went in high and heavy on Saints skipper Paul Wellens.
And after the dust settled from the ensuing melee, with Wellens still prone on the floor, referee James Child produced a red card for Cross and a yellow for Jon Clarke.
Even then, despite their two-man disadvantage, the Vikings defence remained resilient and then a minute before Clarke’s return Saints stand off Lee Gaskell picked his way through a hole in the middle to put the visitors ahead for the first time in the match.
It was a sickener – and as Vikings tried to chase the game a stray Dave Allen was picked off the deck by Jonny Lomax, who sent Francis Meli in for his second and give the scoreboard a harsh ring.
It had been a proper, gritty derby which stirred the emotions of the 8,322 crowd - and they made sure the man in the middle left with a flea in his ear.
And there were plenty of pluses for Widnes, not least a bright start for marquee signing Gareth Hock.
He came off the bench to show the sort of strike he will offer to Vikings’ left edge once he gets bedded in, with his ability to suck in players and offload.
It was certainly a bruiser. A big tackle from Macgrath Leuluai smashed Saints’ heavyweight Australian prop Josh Perry, who was forced off before the fifth minute.
Vikings had casualties too, with Phelps carried off on a stretcher, and he was soon followed down the tunnel, albeit temporarily, by a groggy looking Lomax.
And in the last quarter Saints’ versatile Kiwi Test international Lance Hohaia suffered an AC joint shoulder injury after a heavy collision.
Despite being on the back of a 10-2 first half penalty count, it was Vikings who took the lead when Paddy Flynn leapt for Joe Mellor’s kick, swivelling around in Meli’s tackle to offload to the supporting Stefan Marsh, who still had plenty to do to touch down in the corner.
Saints had plenty of free cracks at the home line without having to expend energy doing the hard yards courtesy of being piggy-backed up the field by penalties but all of the visitors early attacks were easily smothered by the Vikings defence.
However on 18 minutes, after earlier being bundled into touch from a similar move, Meli forced his way in at the corner from a Wellens pass.
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 respectively to keep them at bay.
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 an even heavier one from Cross at the other end, sparking a free-for-all on the hour mark.
But once the cards came out it was game over.
Vikings, however, can claim a lot of credit from the performance.
Much has been said about the high profile recruitment of Hock and the yet to play Kevin Brown, but it was late, low-key signing Phil Joseph who caught the eye on Sunday with his nuggety, no nonsense presence in the middle.
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.