Betts rages at inequality after Saints profit from a two-man advantage
Widnes 4 St Helens 16
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Monday 11 February 2013
Stuttering Saints got their season started, but only after last year's bottom club were controversially reduced to 11 men.
A dour but intriguing battle was locked at 4-4 on the hour mark, with Widnes arguably the better of the two sides. But then Ben Cross went in high on Paul Wellens and virtually all the players on the pitch were involved in a brief but furious fracas.
After consulting with both his assistants, the referee, James Child, sent off Cross and dispatched his team-mate Jon Clarke to the sin-bin.
The Widnes coach, Denis Betts, did not believe it had been that one-sided a fight. "If he wanted to get his cards out, he could have made it 11 versus 11 – 11 versus 13 made it pretty tough," Betts said. "I thought we could have won it. The players feel it was one they let slip."
Predictably, the two-man advantage told and, after Jordan Turner had a try disallowed for a knock-on, Saints finally got their noses in front in the 68th minute when Lee Gaskell sold a dummy and straightened up to find a gap in an out-numbered defence.
Widnes, with Gareth Hock making his debut, kept plugging away and creating half-chances, but with time running out Jonny Lomax pounced on a loose pass from Dave Allen and fed Francis Meli for his second try of the match. Two goals from Gaskell completed a scoreline that flattered the visitors.
Saints, thrashed by Huddersfield last week, had also looked off-colour in the first half at the Stobart Stadium. Widnes had taken the lead after nine minutes, when Rhys Hanbury kicked high across field, Paddy Flynn beat the defence to the ball and served it up for Stefan Marsh.
The equaliser came eight minutes later when Wellens chimed in to the line and released Meli.
Defences were usually on top after that, but Saints' new coach, Nathan Brown, was just happy to get the win, especially without the injured James Roby.
"People will say it's only Widnes, but they really ripped into us today and played very well," Brown said.
That praise will be scant consolation for Widnes perhaps, but may be taken as a warning to the rest of Super League that they need to be taken seriously, particularly when they have 13 men on the field.
Widnes Try Marsh. St Helens Tries Meli 2, Gaskell; Goals Gaskell 2 Widnes: Briscoe; Flynn, Marsh, Phelps, Isa; Mellor, Hanbury; Cross, Clarke, O'Carroll, Allen, Leuluai, Cahill. Subs used White, Hock, Joseph, Gerrard.
St Helens: Wellens; Makinson, Turner, Jones, Meli; Gaskell, Lomax; Perry, Hohaia, Laffranchi, Soliola, Wilkin, Manu. Subs used Greenwood, Flanagan, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Puletua. Referee: J Child (Dewsbury)
Latest in Sport
Petr Cech demands talks over Chelsea future as Thibaut Courtois begs him to stay – as mentor
Angel Di Maria: Manchester United to push ahead with £50m move for Real Madrid winger
Marcos Rojo to Manchester United: Sporting Lisbon confirm deal with Nani heading back to Portugal on loan
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
David Gold furious after Carlton Cole parody account mocks up a picture of West Ham chairman as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case
- 1 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 3 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women