|27th Dec 2008|| Friendly||HOME||4128||HT:12-6|
|Age in brackets is at time of match - Total average age for this team is 19. - ** non-playing sub|
MATCH REPORT : A PADDY Flynn try in the final stages proved the difference as Widnes just edged the James Edwards Land Rover Christmas Challenge over Saints.
After being behind for most of the game, Saints’ Paul Johnson had put the home side ahead, but Vikings’ senior experience just told in the end, Steve McCormack’s side running out 28-26 winners.
Widnes shaded the first half with scores from Loz Wildbore and a nice finish by Gavin Dodd.
Gary Wheeler added one for the Saints as tough defence was the order of the day.
But in the second half both sides became frantic and traded tries before Flynn popped up with the eventual game winner.
In Mick Potter’s first game in charge at the GPW Recruitment Stadium he named a side with a blend of youthful exuberance and first team experience.
In the back line was Chris Dean, returning from Widnes after a season long loan spell and young Tom Armstrong, one of the most athletic looking players you are ever likely to see.
Jamie Foster lined up at full back with Gary Wheeler and Jamie Ellis taking on the stand off and scrum half berths.
Widnes’ brought their full strength squad with the National League competition on the horizon.
Before the match began a minute’s silence was held in memory of the late Vinty Karalius.
Saints’ first set brought a nice kick from Jamie Ellis that put Loz Wildbore under pressure.
But it was Widnes that scored first, eight minutes into the game, with a nicely taken try from Loz Wildbore. The ball was moved to the right through the excellent Iain Morrison and to the full back who juggled and plunged over. Tim Hartley with the extras.
On 12 minutes Gaz Wheeler tried a neat kick through which was almost fielded by Tom Armstrong.
Four minutes later, Ellis tried a chip up on the last tackle and won another set when Widnes were penalised for offside.
Handling was proving difficult in the cold conditions and defences were on top - exemplified when Wheeler was hauled down inches from the line.
But Saints finally got on the board when, deep inside their own half, Wheeler picked up a loose pass and ran 80 yards to go under the posts. Ellis then tagged on the extras to make it six apiece.
On the half hour mark, Widnes kicked a 40:20 to put the Saints’ defence under pressure.
And from there the ball went right, into the hands of Gavin Dodd, who went over in the corner. Hartley with the conversion from the touchline.
Warren Godman then made the tackle of the half stopping a certain Widnes’ score just inches from the line.
Half Time: Saints 6 Widnes 12
Into the second half, Wheeler revered to full back and excellently fielded two early Widnes’ kicks.
Ellis then tried the same tactic at Widnes’ end and brought about another set of six.
And from there, Chris Flannery latched onto a nice pass to bring Saints right back into it. Ellis leveling it up with the boot.
But almost immediately, Dodd intercepted a pass to go 60 yards and put Widnes back in front. Hartley making it a six-pointer.
Saints were having some joy down the left hand side, Flannery in particular linking well with Chris Dean to find gaps in the Vikings’ defence.
And it Andrew Dixon who scored profited from that, touching down on the left after a sweet linking move. Ellis just short with the conversion.
Moments later, Widnes were in again when Thackeray flying down the middle to stretch their lead.
But Saints hit back through Matty Ashurst, who handed off several would be tacklers on his way to the line. Ellis then pulled the Saints back to within two.
And moments later, the ball went through several pairs of hands to Paul Johnson who put Saints ahead.
Widnes nudged in front in the final ten minutes of the game when Paddy Flynn scored, but crucially Fletcher’s conversion was just short, giving Saints a chance in the final few minutes.
Crucially though, Widnes’ defence held firm despite a final hurrah from the men in red vee.
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