Glory in Defeat
Tuesday 10th July 2012
Gaskell's last minute touch line effort spoils Viking party
Widnes Vikings 23
St Helens 24
By Ian Cheveau
LEE Gaskell's touch line conversion at the death won the game for Saints in a thrilling but controversial clash at Stobart Stadium.
It wasn't a stellar St Helens performance but Widnes simply didn't allow Saints much room to operate and the goal line and scramble defence was remarkable.
But the Saints' never say die attitude - something that has been instilled in the club for years - came through and to have won it with the last kick of the game is testament to them.
Saints proved again that they can finish sides off from the most unlikely of situations and positions and they pulled it off again - a hallmark of a champion team.
There was not a lot between the two sides throughout the contest and It was nil-nil for the majority of the first-half as both teams cancelled each other out.
It needed a piece of individual brilliance to change that and Saints thought that had come through Lance Hohaia who ghosted through the middle of Widnes defence from 20 metres to cross. But the New Zealander dropped the ball over the line. Hohaia and Saints thought it was a try but Referee, Robert Hicks ruled otherwise.
The visitors did get the try they were searching for though from Sia Soliala who benefited from an uncharacteristic Widnes error. Hohaia, who was Saints' best player on the day, put a difficult grubba through to the Vikings posts and Hanbury fumbled which allowed Soliola to pounce. Gaskell added the extras.
Widnes replied through Pat Ah Van on 35 minutes after Hanbury's high kick bounced bizarrely on the i-pitch which led to Ah Van racing in for his first try of the afternoon.
Hanbury slotted an excellent touch line conversion but that was to be the best it got with the boot for the scrum-half.
Saints regained the lead immediately into the second-half as Jon Wilkin burrowed his way over from close range to make it 12-6 but Hanbury sent in Chris Dean with a superb fizzing cut-out pass that split the Saints' defence in two.
Hanbury's then hit the ‘ghost goal' which meant the Vikings were still two points adrift.
Widnes didn't let that decision interfere with their game and they pressed on and registered more points with the ball in hand as Dean sent in Ah Van on the left edge. Hanbury's conversion was well wide this time but the Vikings held the lead at 14-12.
Saints regained the advantage through Michael Shenton who didn't let Ah Van, who came flying out the line to hit him, get in his way and the Castelford bound centre went over in the corner. Gaskell tagged on the goal, the lead swinging back to the Saints.
Ah Van then got Widnes' noses back in front with an outstanding length of the field interception to draw level and set up a thrilling final quarter.
Hohaia had a drop goal charged down by Frank Winterstein after Jon Wilkin had gone close but with eight minutes remaining Hanbury hit a one pointer from 35 metres to make it 19-18 to the Vikings.
The nail biting didn't stop there as Widnes looked to close the game out and when Clarke linked up with Dean in a set piece move on the last tackle it created an opening for Phelps to plant the ball out inches from the dead ball line.
Marsh, who stepped up to replace Hanbury in goal kicking duties, missed the conversion attempt which may have swung it for Widnes.
But Saints plugged away and from the short kick off Paul Wellens eventually fed Jones who scored in the corner.
The platform was then given to Gaskell's who struck the killer and final blow.
Cameron Phelps , Willie Isa , Stefan Marsh , Chris Dean, Pat Ah Van, Joe Mellor, Rhys Hanbury, Ben Cross, Jon Clarke, Steve Pickersgill, Frank Winterstein, Dave Allen, Hep Cahill; Ben Davies, John Kite, Paul McShane, Eamon O'Caroll.
Paul Wellens, Tom Makinson, Michael Shenton, Josh Jones, Francis Meli, Lee Gaskell, Lance Hohaia, Josh Perry, Anthony Laffranchi, Chris Flannery, Tony Puletua, Jon Wilkin; Sia Soliola, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paul Clough, Andrew Dixon.
Pens: Widnes 9 St Helens 8
Weather: Dry/slight wind
Ref: Robert Hicks
Widnes MOM: Ah Van
Saints MOM: Gaskell
Widnes - Ah Van, 36, 55, 63, Dean 53, Phelps 76.
Goals: Hanbury 1 / 4, Marsh 0 / 1
Saints: Soliola 33, Wilkin, 43, Shenton 58, Jones 80
Goals: Gaskell 4 / 4