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Saints aim to make amends for opening day shocker against Giants
11:35am Friday 8th February 2013 in Sport
On Sunday Saints will make the short trip to the Stobart Stadium – their former temporary home – with some urgency and no little trepidation after their disastrous start to the Super League campaign.
Nobody really expected the Giants to turn up at Langtree Park and dish out the mother of all hammerings in claiming their first win on St Helens soil since 1978.
Saints will be hoping that this tearing up of history books is not contagious – after all, it has been a long time since Widnes came out on top in a competitive encounter between the neighbours.
You have to look back to Easter Monday, 1994, for the last time that The Chemics, as they still were back then, lowered Saints’ colours.
But there have been some close shaves along the way, not least last season when the Challenge Cup and Super League encounters at the Stobart Stadium turned into real edge of the seat encounters.
Although Saints trounced Vikings 62-0 in the league encounter at Langtree Park, the fixtures in Widnes were more keenly fought.
The first of those – the Challenge Cup clash – saw Saints leading 24 points heading towards the final 10 minutes.
But four late Vikings tries, aided by the panic that set in once James Roby had been sin-binned for delaying a tap restart, put the cat among the pigeons.
In the end, had Patrick Ah Van’s conversion not bounced out off the upright the game would have been sent into golden point.
The league encounter in July was no less gripping, with Vikings looking on course for a sweet victory when Rhys Hanbury coolly slotted the drop goal.
Cameron Phelps stretched that lead with a try three minutes from time, but with Stefan Marsh missing the goal it unwittingly gave Saints one last chance.
Saints took it with both hands, retrieving the ball with 57 seconds left on the clock and laying a platform for Josh Jones to score.
Lee Gaskell was nerveless when he slotted from the touchline to break a few hearts.
But the closeness of those games has slowly but surely helped restore the Widnes v Saints game as a real contest and rekindle memories of those Easter Monday and New Year’s Day derbies of the 70s and 80s – and that is something we can all welcome.
And there is an extra dimension to this one – the Wigan connection.
Widnes are likely to give a debut to erstwhile Wigan Warrior Gareth Hock, whose bogeyman-like status among Saints fans is sure to make it a bit tastier.
For more local interest, former Haresfinch junior Paddy Flynn always likes to show his paces against his hometown club.
The Vikings flyer will always be on record as the first ever try scorer at Langtree Park – and the ground’s first hat-trick man too.