Widnes edge Saints to earn first home win

Widnes secured their first win over St Helens for three years with a narrow 16-14 victory at the Select Security Stadium on Friday.

The Vikings picked up two points after a run of three straight defeats against Leeds, Warrington and Wakefield.

Injuries continued to hamper Widnes with Danny Craven and Tom Armstrong the latest casualties.

Head coach Denis Betts called on captain Joe Mellor to play at half-back and originally opted for Chris Bridge at centre, but he was ruled out in the warm-up meaning Stefan Marsh was called into the side.

Betts, who was keen to end a run of three straight defeats, also decided to make wholesale changes to the pack by bringing in Gil Dudson, Jordan Johnstone and Alex Gerard – Owen Farnworth and Ted Chapelhow were the players to drop out.

The St Helens interim coaching team of Jamahl Lolesi, Sean Long and Derek Traynor were looking to build on securing their first win in charge, after beating league-leaders Castleford earlier in the week.

Ricky Bailey was brought in to replace Tommy Makinson at full-back, while Alex Walmsley dropped to the bench with Greg Richards taking his place in the forwards.

20-year-old winger Regan Grace, who has enjoyed impressive outings in the last few games, started this match with a fine bit of defensive play, pushing Corey Thompson out into touch inches from the whitewash.

The Vikings were able to get their first try on the board inside 13 minutes, Mellor benefitting as Rhys Hanbury’s pass bounced off Zeb Taia and into his path for a simple score.

The hosts were ahead for all of three minutes, Theo Fages managing to keep hold of Tommy Lee’s pass out of dummy-half before sneaking in.

Widnes were soon back in front after a good move down the left, the ball going through the hands of Tom Gilmore and Charly Runciman before eventually finding Patrick Ah Van, who came up with a brilliant diving finish.

Thompson had a chance to put a bit of breathing space between the two sides right before the break, but fumbled Hanbury’s offload a metre from the line.

That miss proved costly for the Vikings as Matty Smith’s converted try pulled Saints level a minute later after Gilmore conceded a penalty for a high tackle on Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.

Mark Percival took full advantage of Widnes being offside early in the second half, slotting a penalty between the posts to edge the visitors in front.

Grace had a golden chance to increase Saints’ narrow lead with 12 minutes remaining, after Widnes had conceded three penalties in two minutes, but dropped Fages’ pass in a key position.

That error would come to haunt Grace, as Ah Van went up the other end and crossed over for what would be the match-winning score after taking a quick pass round the back from Gilmore.

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