TWO tries from Francis Meli saw Saints record thei
TWO tries from Francis Meli saw Saints record their first win of the season.The winger took his ‘Red V’ career tally to 131 in 201 appearances as his side overcame Widnes Vikings 16-4 at a freezing Stobart Stadium.A tight match was deadlocked at 4-4 with just over 20 minutes to go before the home side were sensationally reduced to 11 men.Ben Cross flattened Paul Wellens high and a resultant 26 player melee saw Jon Clarke given ten minutes.Saints struggled to impose themselves with two players more but Lee Gaskell saw a gap and killed off Vikings’ hopes.And Meli then repeated his 18th minute score – which cancelled out Stefan Marsh’s opener – with a real poacher’s effort.Nathan Brown said he wouldn’t make kneejerk changes after last week’s defeat to Huddersfield Giants but was forced to bring in Joe Greenwood after James Roby failed to recover from a foot injury. That saw Lance Hohaia come into the hooker spot.Saints got off to a good start when they won a penalty and gained a drop out in the first minute.And five minutes later they almost scored when the ball went wide through Hohaia and Lomax but Meli was put in touch a foot short.Seconds later Widnes won repeat sets, Saints failed to defend a high ball and Stefan Marsh put the home side ahead.Rhys Hanbury missing the tricky conversion from the touchline.It was a blow but Saints galvanised themselves, Hohaia went close and Wellens then fed Francis Meli for an 18th minute leveller.Saints could have taken the lead on the half hour mark; TP taking four tacklers with him on the way to the line before he was felled just inches short.With five minutes to go Joe Mellor hit an audacious 40:20 that took a ridiculous bounce off the surface. That rocked Saints on their heels but excellent defence stopped the chance.Saints passed up a penalty in front of the sticks late on for a ‘powerplay’ and when that was thwarted Widnes saw a two-point effort of their own drift well wide.The second half got off to an inauspicious start with both sides failing to keep hold of the ball.Joe Greenwood made a spectacular save on his own goal line after the ball was fired to him at pace and Wellens took a superb high ball under pressure.Widnes lost Cameron Phelps to leg injury and then Jonny Lomax took a shot to the head and was out cold.The Vikings had a big chance to forge ahead when Willie Isa broke down the left hand side – but he was caught in two minds and a potential try was lost.But on 59 minutes the match changed on a fiery incident.Ben Cross floored Paul Wellens as he came off his own 10 metre line and was sent off and after a 26-man melee Jon Clarke was sinbinned.That saw a period of ‘13 on 11′ but Saints flustered and couldn’t punch a hole in the defence.Just before Clarke did return though, Gaskell found a gap, threw a dummy and Saints were ahead.And with less than eight minutes left in the game Lomax intercepted a Widnes speculator feeding Meli in for his second.The Vikings pushed for a late score and Hock could’ve counted himself unlucky not to sneak over at the death.Saints clung on though and will head into Friday’s match against Hull FC with renewed vigour.Match Summary:Widnes:Tries: MarshGoals: Hanbury (0 from 2)Saints:Tries: Meli (2), GaskellGoals: Lomax (0 from 1), Gaskell (2 from 2)Penalties:Widnes: 9Saints: 11HT: 4-4FT: 16-4REF: James ChildATT: 8322Teams:Widnes:1. Shaun Briscoe; 20. Paddy Flynn, 4. Stefan Marsh, 3. Cameron Phelps, 2. Willie Isa; 14. Joe Mellor, 7. Rhys Hanbury; 8. Ben Cross, 9. Jon Clarke, 16. Eamon O’Carroll, 12. Dave Allen, 24. Macgraff Leuluai, 13. Hep Cahill.Subs: 18. Lloyd White, 22. Gareth Hock, 23. Phil Joseph, 25. Alex Gerrard.Saints:1. Paul Wellens; 21. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 19. Josh Jones, 5. Francis Meli; 20. Lee Gaskell, 7. Jonny Lomax; 8. Josh Perry, 6. Lance Hohaia, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 4. Sia Soliola, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Willie Manu.Subs: 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Tony Puletua, 15. Mark Flanagan. 24. Joe Greenwood.