Our rugby league writer John Yates gives his assessment of Saints 44-22 derby win over Widnes.
It was a richly deserved accolade - only marred by the sad sight of Saints’ Australian half back Luke Walsh being carried off on a stretcher early in the second half with his legs strapped together and suffering from a season-shattering leg injury.
By then, however, the Super League leaders had established an almost unassailable lead and while stunned by the serious nature of Walsh’s injury, they repelled a spirited mini Widnes revival to claim their 17th competition win of the season and maintain top spot - two points ahead of the Leeds Rhinos and four in front of defending champions Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers.
Winger Tom Makinson led the way with a hat-trick of tries - the perfect celebration after becoming a father - while substitute Mose Masoe struck twice for the first time since pulling on a Saints’ shirt and showed the kind of awesome and brutal strength not seen since Aussie legend Mal Meninga ruled the roost at Knowsley Road in the 1984-85 season.
But the powerhouse prop wasn’t alone among a set of forwards who struck fear into the heart of an often overworked Chemics’ defence, particularly in a blistering opening spell.
Alex Walmsley and Kyle Amor set the tone with their battering ram-style approach and their fellow forwards followed suit as Saints built up an early 32-0 second-half lead, helped to some extent by the sin-binning of Vikings substitute Macgraff Leuluai late in the first period for interference.
At this stage it looked as if the homesters were on their way to a runaway victory - and a much-needed boost to their for and against points column.
But to their credit the Vikings, who lost influential stand-off Kevin Brown with a first-half knee injury, hit back with a three-try salvo in a matter of minutes to cut the deficit to 32-16.
It caused one or two anxious and worrying moments in the Saints’ camp after the manner in which they had been guilty of leaking far too
many points in recent matches.
However, on this occasion they kept their composure, added a couple more tries, and finally snuffed out any thoughts of a Widnes comeback.
Saints had started in workmanlike fashion, scoring twice in the opening 19 minutes.
Walsh sent Mark Flanagan in and then the second rower’s astute kick paved the way for Makinson to sneak over in the right-hand corner -
Mark Percival landing one of his goal attempts.
It also signalled the explosive arrival of man mountain Masoe who had the shirt-sleeved crowd purring in delight as he struck in the 28th and 31st minutes.
Roby’ slick pass led to the prop smashing his way over the tryline and then, like a runaway juggernaut, stormed over the whitewash again, leaving Percival a simple couple of kicks to give Saints a 22-0 interval lead.
Masoe then turned try maker as he combined with Jordan Turner in the 42nd minutes to create space for Makinson to grab his second try which Percival goaled Makinson then returned the compliment three minutes later when his high-speed handling allowed Turner to score in style.
Still scoreless and looking dead and buried, the Chemics suddenly produced a purple patch, scoring three tries in five minutes through Cameron Phelps (2) and. Stefan Marsh, and two Danny Tickle conversion.
It cut the deficit to a retrievable 16 points but Saints once more upped the stakes with Makinson completing his hat-trick to take his Super League tally for the season to 21 and Willie Manu stripping the ball from the opposition before strolling in for Saints’ sixth and final try after 68 minutes.
It left a brave but battered Widnes outfit to ring down the curtain on a high quality derby clash with a Rhys Hanbury try in the dying moments and a third Tickle goal.