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Gaskell goal snatches late win for Saints
SAINTS snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with half back Lee Gaskell holding his nerve to slot over a last minute touchline conversion.
Vikings looked on course to register their first win over their local rivals since 1994 when a Rhys Hanbury drop goal broke the 18-all deadlock seven minutes from time.
And that feeling of anticipation in the home crowd grew further when Cameron Phelps nipped in at the corner after good passing from skipper Jon Clarke and Hanbury.
But because Stefan Marsh missed with his touchline goal, Saints were given one last crack after they forced a knock on from the short kick off.
With the clock reading 1minute 57 seconds, Saints had one last set of six on the Vikings line – and they moved it before eventually creating an opening for the prolific teenage centre Josh Jones to continue his try scoring run.
With the crowd hollering, the nerveless Gaskell stepped up to arrow it between the uprights to clinch the victory with no time left for the restart.
The game was full of controversy with Vikings adamant that one of Rhys Hanbury’s goalkicks was good, and Saints protesting that Paul Welllens and Lance Hohaia’s disallowed tries should have stood.
Remarkably there was no score until the 32nd minute – and that game from a rare defensive blip.
Hanbury knocked on Hohaia’s last tackle kick, with substitute Sia Soliola reacting quickest to touch down. Gaskell goaled – but that lead did not last long, with Tommy Makinson making the fatal error of letting the ball bounce – and bounce it did, into the arms of former Saint Chris Dean who sent Patrick Ah Van steaming over.
Hanbury kicked it off the touchline to make it 6-6 at the break.
Saints started strongly in the second half with jon Wilkin powering home by the posts from a James Roby pass, after a strong burst by Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Gaskell’s goal was a formality, but any thoughts that Vikings would start to fade after their tremendous defensive stint, were soon dispelled when Hanbury threw a fine pass for Dean to power in.
Hanbury slipped taking the goal - and it was ruled out by the touch judges but the home faithful disagreed believing it was good.
But two minutes later, after a powerful surge from Ben Cross, Vikings were in again when the ball was worked to the left where Ah Van stormed over. Again the kick was missed to leave Vikings only two points ahead.
After a points drought early on, the dam appeared to have burst when moments later Michael Shenton brushed off Ah Van to cross out wide. Once again, Gaskell came up with the goods to goal off the touchline to make it 18-14 to the visitors.
However, some slow, sloppy handling – with a loose pass from Andrew Dixon being snapped up by Ah Van, who went the length of the field to level it, with the goal kick again missed.
A nervy last quarter of an hour saw a Hohaia drop goal get blocked by John Kite – a passage of play that almost resulted in a Jon Wilkin try by the posts.
A couple of Widnes penalties later and the ball was being laid back for Hanbury to slot what looked like a match-winning one pointer despite protestations from Soliola about obstruction.
But the excitement was not over yet – with the game going all the way down to the last second to keep the 7,023 fans on the edges of their seats.
Widnes; Phelps; Isa, Marsh, Dean, Ah Van; Mellor, Hanbury; Cross, Clarke, Pickersgill, Winterstein, Allen, Cahill. Subs: Davies, Kite, McShane, O’Carroll.
Saints: Wellens; Makinson; Shenton, Jones, Meli; Gaskell, Hohaia; Perry, Roby, Laffranchi, Flannery, Puletua, Wilkin. Subs: Soliola, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Clough, Dixon.