WIDNES boss John Kear was pleased with his side’s 16-12 defeat at Super League champions St Helens in Friday’s Mark Percival game.

Vikings held a strong-looking Saints side to 12-0 at the break and caused the hosts problems, managing to make a couple of unconverted clean breaks.

After they went 16-0 down, Vikings staged a late rally with tries from Ryan Ince and Brad Holroyd setting up a grandstand finish.

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Afterwards Kear said: “I was happy with that performance because you've got to look at the opposition that you face. And obviously that team that St Helens started with was a very, very good Super League team.

“I know they had the England lads missing but it was very, strong team and I thought we competed really well and they enjoyed themselves as the game unfolded.

“But it was a great exercise for us and I was really pleased because I asked the players to really put a performance in because there’s a lot of them who are big mates with Mark Percival – who has been a one-club man for 10 years.

“It deserved to be a good testimonial and it was very competitive and I think anybody who came to that will certainly have their money's worth.”

Vikings gave as good as they got in the first half and twice opened up the Saints defence, with only a slip stopping Oli Davies from scoring.

“Saints had three line breaks, which they converted two and one Jack Owens closed down, I think we had two line breaks and obviously we didn't finish ours.”

Kear believes this third run-out, particularly against the champions, will get them up to the mark for the weekend’s Championship opener against York.

“I thought it was a really high quality game because the ball was in play a lot, in the first half there was 39 sets.

“That's a heck of a lot of rugby league that's been played and it's certainly done our players a lot of good with regard to their the match conditioning for next week obviously because we're starting earlier than the Super League team so we needed to be that bit further on and he certainly benefited us.”

Although Saints started with a jittery displays of plenty of ring-rust “I thought we were very resilient and that that's a real pleasing thing about that because it's hard work when St Helens put you in a corner and it's hard work getting out of that corner.

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“They are so aggressive defensively and the so well coached and well organized and smart defensively that it's really difficult to clear you know and end and you know but we just stuck at it kept working away at it and found a way to get out of our own end.

“So, there's more plus points and negatives. So it's been a very, very good exercise."

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Hooker Matty Fozard, was one of a number of ex-Saints in the Vikings ranks and he looked lively on his old stamping ground.

Kear added: “Matty Fozard had an excellent first half and I was delighted with our first 20 minutes or so that Matty put in. I thought he looked Super League quality and I was really pleased with that.

“There's a lot of friendships between the sides because he's very local between Saints and Widnes. There's a lot of Widnes lads in the Saints team and vice versa. So it's been a good night and I'm sure everybody's enjoyed it as.”

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Kear believes there’s a good balance to the Vikings squad on the eve of the new season – and the ship has been steadied after a torrid few seasons since their fall from the top flight.

“The recent history of Widnes has been pretty torrid at times and I think we've had to steady the ship and now we've got to have a sustainable growth and improvement and both on and off the field.

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“And I'm certain that that will happen.

“We have got some good young players who are very hungry and we've got some clever, experienced players who can help guide them around.

“There's a really good individual performance against some quality experienced players and some quality kids who came on.”

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Kear’s focus was now on the Championship opener at York on Sunday.

“When we reconvene on Monday, will see who has carrying knocks because one thing we aren't going to do again when we play York is nobody is going to be carrying niggles and knocks into it because we have got a big squad.

“They've given a good account of themselves in the pre-season games and they're going to have to be hundred per cent fit to get on that field,” he said.