Super League: Widnes Vikings 18-38 St Helens
|Betfred Super League|
|Widnes (18) 18|
|Tries: Whitley, Albert, Keinhorst Goals: Marsh 3|
|St Helens (22) 38|
|Tries: Richardson, Percival, Grace 2, Barba, Morgan 2 Goals: Richardson 5|
St Helens ensured they will remain top of the Super League table after the Magic Weekend fixtures but had to dig deep to overcome a dogged Widnes.
Four first-half tries to three, including a typical slicing run and score by Ben Barba, gave Saints a narrow advantage at the break.
Saints stepped it up after half-time and kept Widnes at arm's length.
Ryan Morgan ran in a brace of tries before Regan Grace capped the match with a fine break.
It was tough on the Vikings, who failed to register a second-half point.
It was almost a year to the day since Saints head coach Justin Holbrook took his place in the St James' Park stands for the first time to watch his new side thrash Hull, and the turnaround in the club since then has been emphatic.
With Barba, Danny Richardson, James Roby and Jonny Lomax supplying the ammunition for a devastating backline, St Helens have roared to the top of Super League and despite being tested at times here, were still convincing victors in recording a fifth-straight win.
Denis Betts' Vikings arrived on Tyneside without a win in five games in all competitions but they belied that form in the first 40 minutes in front of a vocal travelling contingent.
Matt Whitley plunged in from close range to put them in front, a score which prompted high-flying Saints into life.
Richardson backed up a Dom Peyroux break to level and within nine minutes two further scores from kicks had seen Mark Percival and Grace cross on the left edge.
Wellington Albert powered over before Barba cut through but, with Peyroux in the sin-bin, a superb last-play move saw Jimmy Keinhorst tear his way through.
However, Saints have made winning a habit and once restored to a full complement, another classy move put Morgan in out wide to pull them clear.
The centre got his second to make the result inevitable and Grace scampered away to start the celebrations.
Only the sight of wing Tommy Makinson making his way down the tunnel early after an accidental clash with Stefan Marsh would have soured the occasion for Saints.
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook:
"We were a little bit off with some of our passing and a little bit soft defensively in the first half but overall I'm happy with the win.
"People don't give Widnes enough credit. They were very unlucky not to beat Leeds in the Challenge Cup last week and, had they done that, it would have been a different week for us.
"Everyone had automatically given us the win which can make it hard for the players. In the second half, we dominated and came away with a good win."
Widnes coach Denis Betts:
"There was lots of energy and effort, just a lack of execution.
"There were two really tough calls in the game. The scoreline doesn't really indicate how close we were.
"We've just got to keep pushing on and these things will turn for us."
Widnes: Hanbury, Ah Van, Runciman, Keinhorst, Marsh, Mellor, Heremaia, J. Chapelhow, Johnstone, Burke, Whitley, Wilde, Cahill.
Replacements: Olbison, Leuluai, D. Walker, W. Albert.
St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Douglas, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.
Replacements: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees.
Sin Bin: Peyroux (37).
Referee: Liam Moore (RFL)