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Briers late drop is vital for Wolves
Lee Briers landed a late drop-goal to hand impressive Warrington their seventh consecutive engage Super League victory by 25-24 and plunge arch-rivals Widnes into trouble at the foot of the table.
The Wolves had emerged as the league?s surprise package this season but they needed all their determination to see off the Vikings who had been eager to avenge their humiliating Challenge Cup defeat to Toulouse last week.
After a tight first half Warrington seemed likely to cruise to the win thanks to tries by Nathan Wood and Graham Appo but they were startled when scores by Gray Viane and Julian O?Neill brought the sides level going into the closing stages.
But Briers was on hand to knock over the all-important kick in the 75th minute to give Paul Cullen?s side yet another triumph.
The clash got off to an explosive start when Warrington scored the game?s first try in the opening minute - and what a score it was.
A left-field move involving Brent Grose, Henry Fa?Afili and Martin Gleeson was eventually finished off by Jon Clarke in the right-hand corner.
An O?Neill penalty reduced the arrears and by the 14th minute Widnes were in front thanks to an Andrew Emelio four-pointer in the corner. O?Neill converted.
Both sides were making silly mistakes in the face of some punishing tackling by O?Neill with a simple penalty from 30 yards out to accept his team?s lead.
Vikings centre Jon Whittle missed a great chance to claim his side?s second try when he knocked on with the try-line beckoning, a miss that was compounded as Briers sent Gleeson over in the corner at the other end moments later.
Briers kicked his second conversion to leave the scores tied at 8-8 but giant Australian Danny Lima then barged over from close range on half-time to send the Wolves into the break ahead.
A terrific start to the second period by Widnes saw them reduce the deficit to two points thanks to a try by robust winger Viane.
But Warrington regained their composure and, after Gleeson had centred the defence with a powerful run, Nathan Wood was on hand to size up his marker and dive over.
The Vikings were not being forced on to the back foot as the visitors? pack began to dominate and it was no surprise to see them extend their advantage in the 57th minute.
Wood put in a delighted grubber kick which was expertly grouted by flying substitute Appo. Paul Moone converted to make it 24-12.
With Widnes huffing and puffing there looked no way back for the hosts but Viane breezed over into the Wolves defence stretch to set up a grandstand finale.
Amazingly the Vikings then drew level when an incisive Owen Craigie kick was poorly dealt with, allowing O?Neill to pick up the bobbling ball and ground with ease.
O?Neill added the extras to make it 24-24 but Briers had the last word, nailing a 25-yard drop-goal to give Warrington the win.
Widnes (8) 24. Tries: Emelio, Viane 2, Finnigan. Goals: J. O'Neill 4.
Warrington (14) 25. Tries: Clarke, M. Gleeson, Lima, N. Wood, Appo. Goals: Briers, Noone. Drop Goals: Briers.
Widnes: Holmes, Emelio, Whittle, Fa-alogo, Viane, Craigie, J. O?Neill, O?Connor, Smith, Stankevitch, Cassidy, Frame, Finnigan. Replacements: J. O?Neill, Mills, Myler, Whitaker.
Warrington: Grose, Fa?afili, M. Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Gaskell, Briers, N. Wood, Leikvoll, Clarke, Hilton, Swann, Noone, Westwood. Replacements: P. Wood, Lima, Appo, M. Gleeson.
Referee: Ian Smith (Oldham) Att: 9,825
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Saints take the points
The former Great Britain scrum half has been installed as head coach until the end of the year following the dismissal of Shane McNally.
And he now has just nine games to save the Wildcats from the drop after Saints ran in six tries to leave Wakefield hovering perilously close to the relegation trapdoor.
However, Smith will take considerable encouragement after a tenacious and spirited display from his players, who refused to succumb against Daniel Anderson?s high-flying side.
Having condemned fierce rivals Wigan to a humiliating record 75-0 defeat in last week?s Powergen Challenge Cup quarter-final, Saints took just 42 seconds to break Wakefield?s brittle resistance.
Keiron Cunningham seized possession and ghosted through a hideous gap in the home defence before finding Ian Hardman racing forward in support on the right flank.
He provided a perfect offload to Australian centre Jamie Lyon, who crossed the line unopposed from close range for a try converted by Paul Sculthorpe.
The Wildcats replied five minutes later with a penalty from Jamie Rooney, but Saints soon extended their advantage when Sculthorpe powered his way through a clutch of Wakefield defenders after 13 minutes.
The Saints skipper again converted, but the spirited Wildcats began to grit their teeth and their pressure duly told after 19 minutes.
Olivier Elima displayed sheer brute force to touch down his side?s first try of the game and Rooney converted to reduce Saints? advantage to just four points.
However, the visitors remained a threat on the counter-attack and they registered their third try after 22 minutes when more clever handling from Cunningham saw Jon Wilkin cross the line.
Sculthorpe again kicked successfully, but the spirited Wildcats refused to buckle and shortly before the half hour mark, excellent work from Jason Demetriou allowed Ben Jeffries to cross the line from close range.
Rooney converted to again reduce the deficit to four points, but Paul Wellens latched on to Sculthorpe?s teasing grubber kick to touch down a try converted by Lyon to restore St Helens? 10-point advantage before the interval hooter.
The visitors began the game without injured trio Sean Long, Jason Hooper and Darren Albert, and were dealt a further blow when Sculthorpe failed to reappear for the second half.
However, two quick tries by Saints shortly after the restart effectively ended Wakefield?s hopes of salvaging anything from the game.
Wilkin grabbed his second from close range before the ubiquitous Lyon embarked on a scintillating run that saw him race from deep inside his own half before a perfect offload allowed Vinnie Anderson to score.
Lyon converted both efforts, but it was his all-round performance which illuminated the game and graphically illustrated why he has emerged as one of the outstanding players in the engage Super League. The spirited Wildcats refused to surrender, however, and they again came back strongly courtesy of tries from Demetriou and Jeffries.
Rooney converted both efforts to reduce the deficit back to 10 points, but Lyon?s late penalty ensured Saints had the final say.
Wakefield (14) 26. Tries: Elima, Jeffries 2, Demetriou. Goals: Rooney 5.
St Helens (24) 38. Tries: Lyon, Sculthorpe, Wilkin 2, Wellens, V. Anderson. Goals: Sculthorpe 3, Lyon 4.
Wakefield: Halpenny, M. Field, Spicer, Demetriou, Tadulala, Rooney, Jeffries, Griffin, Obst, Korkidas, Solomona, MacGillivray, Domic. Replacements: March, Snitch, Elima, Wainwright.
St Helens: Wellens, Hardman, Lyon, Talau, Gardner, Wilkin, Sculthorpe, Fozzard, Cunningham, P. Anderson, Gilmour, Graham, V. Anderson. Replacements: Roby, Edmondson, Bennett, Mason.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton (Barnsley) Att: 5,323
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for these great articles.