Liverpool St Helens got the job done against Widnes to maintain their challenge in North One West.
Although spared the terrible weather experienced in the rest of the country, sufficient rain had fallen to create the proverbial mud bath generated by both team’s efforts not long after the start. It wasn’t pretty but LSH’s power, organisation and strong defensive play was enough to see off a determined Widnes outfit.
On a day when two first choice front row men were absent, Josh Grant-Butler, Mario Bonati and Mark Fryer all put in solid eighty minute shifts and provided the backbone for the win.
Widnes made all the early running seeing them move the ball along their backs coming close to scoring twice and ultimately bringing a penalty converted by Dave Welsh.
LSH hit back from the restart with a penalty from Greg Smith after 19 minutes and went on to boss the game for the rest of the half hammering at the Widnes defence and were rewarded with two scores before half time.
The first came on 29 minutes after a sequence of strong drives to the right hand side of the posts was continued to the left, first of all by Dave Cunliffe and then by Mark Williams. Flanker Mark Wilcox claimed the ball from the resultant ruck and charged over the line to score, converted by Smith.
The second try came after patient build up work from the LSH pack led to scrum half Matt Gaines passing quickly on the blindside to winger Matt Cunliffe. This only tells half the story as the ankle high pass was brilliantly pouched by the acrobatic Cunliffe before launching himself over the line for a crucial try right on the stroke of half time. As the conditions deteriorated in the second half so did the quality of the rugby with the teams cancelling each other out in the middle of the park. There were plenty of errors from both sides with one phase of play containing so many knock-ons and eventually a forward pass that the referee was hard pressed to remember the first offence.
Smith extended LSH’s lead with a penalty in the 45th minute and was desperately unlucky ten minutes later when kicking on a loose ball and winning a chase over 50 yards only to lose possession at the last minute.
Widnes worked hard to try to break down the LSH defence but found no way through until five minutes from the end when a break down the left flank was continued by winger Paul O’Connor for a try in the left hand corner. This was too little too late for the visitors as LSH, still in command, closed out the game to claim the valuable winning points.