St. Helens strolled to a comfortable 36-6 win against bottom club Widnes Vikings on Friday night at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Saints were in control by half time despite never really needing to get out of first gear thanks to tries from Zeb Taia, Mark Percival, Adam Swift and Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Danny Craven scored Widnes’ only try of the match in the second half but Saints wrapped up victory thanks to two further scores from Swift, who completed his hat-trick, and Frenchman Theo Fages.
St Helens, without star men Ben Barba and Tommy Makinson, started the brightest and were 10-0 up in as many minutes.
Firstly James Roby produced a moment of class from behind the play-the-ball, breaking the line then producing a superb offload for Taia to touch down under the sticks.
Percival then scored his customary try against the Vikings, a scorer in the last four meetings, after Lomax broke away and sent the ball through hands for the Widnes-born centre to score in the corner.
Swift scored his first of the night as he took in a long pass from Richardson to score, and then, just before half-time, Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook crashed over after a lovely ball from prop Luke Douglas.
The Vikings were first to score in the second half through Craven who hit the ball at pace to go over and give the travelling Widnes contingent something to cheer, however, any hope of a comeback didn’t last long.
Lomax took on the Widnes defence on a last tackle play and beat them to find himself in space and found Fages on his right and sent him over to score.
It was Swift, in the side in place of Makinson, who grabbed his second and third of the evening to wrap up the scoring for the Saints, acrobatically finishing in the corner for his second and then combining with Richardson again to complete his treble.
It was a 13th consecutive defeat for Widnes which means they can no longer finish any higher than 11th, but Saints keep their six point gap at the top despite Wigan’s win over Warrington with the win.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Swift has caused a selection headache
For Saints this season, Tommy Makinson and Regan Grace have been Justin Holbrook’s go to wingers having performed week in, week out which has meant Adam Swift has had very limited game time in the red vee.
But his performance against the Vikings was top drawer and means the St. Helens head coach now has a difficult choice in coming weeks. Keep Swift on the wing as a reward for his performance, or instantly bring back England international Makinson?
Maybe there is space for both with Ryan Morgan missing out tonight, so could there be a chance of Makinson and Swift linking up on the same wing?
Holbrook has so many options at his disposal, it’s no surprise their standards and style of rugby hasn’t waned this season even with squad rotation.
Widnes with a Middle 8’s disadvantage
The defeat at the hands of St Helens means Widnes’ Middle 8’s campaign will feature just the three home games, with the Vikings having to play four of their fixtures away from the Halton.
While it may not be a surprise, it is confirmation that Widnes’ atrocious season will see them scrapping for survival primarily in games on the road, making their task that little bit tougher.
The Vikings last won away in last year’s Middle 8’s fixture at Catalans- a victory which confirmed their Super League status for 2018.
Man Of The Match – Adam Swift (St Helens)
It wasn’t a stellar performance from St Helens as a whole but they didn’t need to be at their best against a Widnes side that offered very little, but Adam Swift took his chance on the wing.
For his hat-trick alone Swift gets man of the match here as it was arguably his try that took the match away from the Vikings in the first half while his second and third tries confirmed the points for the league leaders.
It was a routine win for Saints but that is no reason to discredit the effort Swift put in on a fine evening for the winger.
St Helens 36
Tries: Taia, Percival, Swift (3), McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Fages
Goals: Richardson (4)
Drop Goals: n/a
Widnes Vikings 6
Drop Goals: n/a
St Helens: Lomax, Swift, Costello, Percival, Grace, Fages, Richardson, Amor, Roby, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin.
Interchanges: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles, Lees
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Marsh, Runicman, Inu, Buckley, Mellor, Craven, J.Chapelhow, Heremaia, Dudson, Wilde, Hauraki, Gerrard.
Interchanges: Whitley, Olbison, Leuluai, D.Walker
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas