Super League: Frances Meli double helps St Helens beat Widnes
Last Updated: 10/02/13 5:26pm
Francis Meli: Two tries for St Helens
St Helens scored a 16-4 win at Widnes but it took the 60th-minute dismissal of Vikings prop Ben Cross to swing the match their way.
The game was finely balanced with the scores locked at 4-4 when a mass brawl erupted on the hour following a high tackle on St Helens captain Paul Wellens.
Referee James Child's response was to hand Cross a red card and send Widnes captain Jon Clarke to the sin bin and Saints took full advantage to seal victory with the aid of tries by Lee Gaskell and Francis Meli.
The Vikings made the best possible start, taking the lead after only five minutes when winger Paddy Flynn palmed back Joe Mellor's precision kick to the corner for centre Stefan Marsh to touch down.
Saints had no shortage of possession but they struggled to break down a hard-working Vikings defence and their only try before the break came from winger Meli, who took Wellens' long pass to cross on 17 minutes.
Both teams suffered disruption early in the second half, with Widnes centre Cameron Phelps carried off on a stretcher with a leg injury and Saints losing a dazed Jonny Lomax, both within 10 minutes of the restart.
With the game finely balanced, Widnes were suddenly reduced to 11 men on the hour when Cross was sent off and Clarke sin-binned following a brawl involving all 26 players.
Not only with a two-man advantage, Saints were boosted by the return of Lomax and they went on to dominate the final quarter.
Wellens was thrown back from the line but the Vikings were clearly short of numbers when stand-off Gaskell went through a gap for Saints' second try on 67 minutes.
Gaskell converted his own try and Saints made sure of the win nine minutes from the end when Lomax seized on a loose ball 20 metres out from the Widnes line and sent Meli over for his second try, with Gaskell kicking a second goal.