Widnes 26 Saints 42.
A DEBUT try from Sia Soliola and an eye-catching performance from Jonny Lomax were among the highlights of Saints’ win over their neighbours Widnes.
Saints got off to a blistering start with four tries in the opening quarter giving them a 22-0 lead that left the Vikings with too much to do.
The alert Gary Wheeler started the ball rolling on seven minutes when he cashed in on a tap back from a Jamie Ellis kick to scamper over from close range.
Ellis had a fine game with his clever and varied kicking game asking questions of the home defence.
Lomax excelled, particularly in the opening exchanges, with some powerful and speedy running from full back.
One such burst from Lomax, backed up by Chris Flannery, resulted in Jamie Foster going in at the corner.
Foster tagged on the extras from out on the left to make it 10-0 and Saints were in the ascendancy.
Saints were wearing the Vikings down and it looked too easy when the line opened up for Bryn Hargreaves to bash his way over, converted by Foster to make it 16-0.
Saints were soon back for more, with an astute kick from Ellis early in the set being caught by Armstrong on the wing. He drew his man and sent Kiwi international Soliola storming over for his first try.
Foster’s goal made it 22-0 and it looked like it was going to be a walkover for the men in the red vee.
But Widnes steadied the ship and then hit back with a couple of tries of their own.
Both were scored by centre Dean Thompson, who was only on the pitch because Vikings centre Toa Kohe Love injured himself warming up.
Superb handling across the line saw Thompson force his way over for the first of those. The second came from a set piece move from a scrum, with Shane Grady goaling both to make it 22-12.
But another fine piece of play from the classy Lomax set up another cracking Saints score. Running from deep, Lomax found Flannery in support to take play deep into the Widnes half. From the next tackle wing Tom Armstrong went over for a smartly taken score.
Widnes wrapped up the scoring just before the break with a length of the field effort polished off by Anthony Thackeray and goaled by Grady.to make it 26-18 at the break.
Vikings were making a game of it and were first on the scoresheet after the break when Matt Strong nipped in from close range.
In the bitterly cold conditions, and with a large number of substitutes allowed, the second half never really flowed as much as the first.
Wheeler smartly aimed his kick for the post padding, collecting the rebound to touch down and keep some distance between the teams on the scoreboard.
Chris Dean, who is registered with both clubs this year, chalked one up for the Saints – again goaled by Foster.
But that was cancelled out when Matt Gardner, brother of Saints wing Ade, touched down a grubber kick wide.
Saints had to defend a 10-point lead for those closing stages until Ellis had the last word, showing determination and intelligence to prise a way through.
The only sour note for Saints was the departure of wing Armstrong with what looked like a sprung shoulder.
Widnes: Ford; Crompton, Thompson, Grady, Gardner; Thackeray, Webster; Pickersgill, Smith, Gannon, Allen, Doran, Gerrard. Subs: Coyle, Yates, Strong, Kavanagh, Houghton, Smith.
Saints: Lomax; Foster, Dean, Soliola, Armstrong; Wheeler, Ellis; Fa’asavalu, Cunningham, Hargreaves, Dixon, Flannery, Clough. Subs: Gaskell, Magennis, Emmit, Ashurst, Bradbury, Makinson, Moore, C. Foster, Thompson.