League leaders St Helens were made to work by Widnes as they won the first Super League match of Magic Weekend 38-18 at St James’ Park.
Two second half tries from Ryan Morgan helped them to victory after the Vikings had fought back to be just 22-18 adrift at half time.
Ben Barba inspired at both ends again, crossing for a try and pulling off an important try-saving tackle on Sam Wilde in the first half moments before Regan Grace stretched their lead.
Saints kept Widnes scoreless in the second half to secure their 13th win in 15 Super League games this season.
Having kicked off out on the full through Stefan Marsh, Widnes recovered from that wobbly start to take the lead inside five minutes.
Hooker Jordan Johnstone, handed a start at nine, darted out from dummy half and popped up a lovely pass for Matt Whitley to hit the line at the angle and score the game’s opening try.
Widnes will have been pleased with their opening efforts but were hit from range on nine minutes when Dominic Peyroux broke from inside his own half and waited for the supporting Danny Richardson to make the rest of the journey to the try line.
Saints backed that up with their second try five minutes later, though only after intervention from the video referee. A scrappy last tackle play resulted in an awkward kick left by Barba, and it bounced back and almost above Jimmy Keinhorst, who got a hand on it but it was dislodged on contact with Mark Percival and the Saints centre scooped up the loose ball to touch down.
Widnes had another video referee decision go against them on 17 minutes, again rightly, as Barba pulled off a remarkable try-saving tackle on Sam Wilde, after the back-rower had charged 30 metres off the back of a flat Joe Mellor pass.
It proved another piece of Barba inspiration as Saints responded by going up the other end and crossing for their third try, a kick through on the last bouncing back off Hep Cahill for Regan Grace to touch down, despite suggestions of a Percival knock on amongst it.
That had Saints 18-6 up, but Widnes weren’t going to roll over and substitute Wellington Albert made an immediate impact, offloading for Heremaia to take the Vikings close, before Albert would charge over for a try off a Johnstone short ball, the second time he’s scored against Saints this season.
But on the half hour mark, Barba popped up with some magic at the other end, taking a pass wide on the right and slicing through the line to stretch the lead to 22-12.
As half time approached, Widnes pressed and a Mellor reverse kick was being chased by Heremaia before he taken out in the in-goal area by Peyroux, who was sinbinned for his actions.
From the resulting penalty, another Mellor kick forced a drop out and as the hooter sounded, Mellor was instrumental in working the ball from left to right to create the space for Keinhorst to go over the line and reduce arrears to 22-18 at the break.
With a man disadvantage for the first seven minutes of the second half, St Helens were happy to keep Widnes at arms length and Richardson tagged on a penalty to stretch their lead to six before Peyroux returned to the field.
Widnes were knocking on the door and Whitley was held up, but St Helens would show their class to break away.
They kept the ball alive in their own half on 54 minutes and Percival danced past three defenders before sending Richardson away on the right and the move ended with Ryan Morgan crossing down the right for 28-18.
Morgan would cross again on 62 minutes although there was some doubt over that one, as it appeared that Widnes’ make-shift full back Marsh, filling in for Rhys Hanbury who had been forced off with a hamstring injury, had got his foot under the ball on grounding. It was given by the video referee and Saints were all but home and dry at 32-18.
They rounded things off late on as Grace pounced on a loose ball and went 70 metres unopposed for his second try.
Widnes: Hanbury, Ah Van, Runciman, Keinhorst, Marsh, Mellor, Heremaia, J Chapelhow, Johnstone, Burke, Whitley, Wilde, Cahill. Subs: Leuluai, Olbison, Albert, D Walker.
St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin. Subs: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees.
Star Man: It wasn’t Saints’ best performance of the season, but Danny Richardson popped up at the right times to inspire the victory against his hometown club.