Widnes 18 Anselmians 22
Saints tested but emerge triumphant.
Anselmians travelled to Heath Road, knowing that anything less than a bonus point victory would effectively end their promotion hopes. With so much at stake, it was surprising that Saints were slow to react to the Widnes challenge. On a back pitch that flattered to deceive, it was the home side that set the agenda. A series of intelligent kicks gave Widnes territorial advantage and it was no surprise that they took the lead on seven minutes with a penalty from captain Kevin Leadbetter.
Saints responded immediately, using their forwards to press home a perceived advantage. Several driving mauls established position and it was hooker Scott Southwell who was last up after a powerful Saints drive. Full-back Iain Taylor missed the conversion, but Anselmians led 5-3 after fifteen minutes.
An astute kick and chase by Saints’ scrum-half, Liam Sadler, set up an attacking position but Widnes’ defence held firm. Anselmians’ pack, with James Whitelock-Wainwright, Nick HEARN and Nick LAMMING prominent, was slowly gaining superiority. Widnes’ three-quarters were lively and tested centres Charlie Hough and Sam Russell, but the Saints’ defence held firm. Several promising backs moves ended with poor final passes or knock-ons, but Anselmians were attempting to create openings. As half-time approached, Widnes’ backs effectively dealt with any Anselmian moves by closing down space suspiciously quickly but Saints, leading 5-3, had a job half done.
After the break, it was Widnes who set the agenda with pace and purpose. Almost immediately, No. 8, Tom O’Neill scored and centre Kevin Leadbetter added the extras. Leading 10-5, Widnes increased their lead by a fine effort by substitute, James Butler. The winger kicked ahead, gathered the bouncing ball and won a foot race to the line. Leadbetter missed the conversion but, at 15-5, Widnes were rewarded for their pace and aggression.
The Anselmian response was led, as ever, by talismanic skipper, Nick HEARN. What brief ascendency Saints had had in the first half was forged by the forwards and, now, it was the pack who delivered. The front row, led by James Whitelock-Wainwright and Mario Quitadamo, scrummaged aggressively and it was fitting that the latter was rewarded by scoring after a concerted Saints drive. Taylor hooked the conversion left of the uprights and Anselmians were one score in arrears.
Kellum FRIDAY came on for Niall Cavanagh and made an immediate impact. Saints’ eight was threatening to overwhelm the tiring Widnes pack and several rolling mauls and drives were only stopped by the home side’s infringements. Referee Dave Edmunds was increasingly penalising Widnes and, after an hour, dismissed one offender with a yellow card. The depleted home forwards were under considerable pressure and buckled under another Anselmian drive which saw Friday triumphantly emerge with the ball having scored. The conversion was missed, but Anselmians were level at 15-15.
Widnes replied with a Leadbetter penalty for a high tackle to lead as the last ten minutes began, but Anselmians, like the previous week against Bowdon, would not be denied. Frenetic attacks featuring centres Russell and Hough winger, Adam Bramhall and inevitably, Nick HEARN, tested the Widnes defence. A series of penalties and lineouts put pressure on Widnes and it was fitting that Man of the Match, James Whitelock-Wainwright, should score the winning try after another Anselmian drive to the line. Taylor converted and, at 22-18, Anselmians had to withstand a last Widnes assault to record a bonus point win.
Widnes launched a wave of attacks in a nail- biting finish but, once again, Anselmians' defence was heroic and, for the second week in succession, they had come from behind to overcome a fine, well-organised opposition.
A 22-17 win last week and a 22-18 victory today. The dream continues!