Waterford always looked the better team against a gutsy Westmeath outfit in a somewhat low-key Allianz Hurling League Division 1 game at TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar this afternoon.
Despite having the aid of a strong wind, it took Waterford a while to settle.
Iarlaith Daly opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a long-range point, and the visitors led by 0-03 to 0-01 when Westmeath captain Eoin Price got his side on the scoreboard in the 11th minute.
It was 0-07 to 0-02 midway through the first half when Stephen Bennett pounced for Waterford's first goal.
The home team had the gap down to five points, 1-08 to 0-06, with 26 minutes elapsed, but the Munster team put a huge distance between the teams by scoring an unanswered 2-02 before the break – the goals from the sticks of Jack Fagan when he tapped the ball into an unguarded net in the second minute of injury-time and Bennett’s second(with the last puck of the half.
The Decies men led by 3-10 to 0-06 at the interval.
Westmeath needed a good start to the second half but Niall Mitchell, who had a decent game overall, underhit an early '65’.
Bennett continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over from placed balls – he scored four out of five ‘65’s awarded to his team throughout the game, in addition to four frees.
It was 3-13 to 0-09 in favour of Liam Cahill’s troops when Mitchell scored his side’s only goal in the 54th minute, after being picked out by impressive sub Ciaran Doyle, who scored four points from play in the second half.
Waterford should have raised two more green flags before the end, but Bennett’s 64th-minute penalty was superbly saved by Aaron McHugh.
Bennett had a ‘goal’ disallowed in the last minute of normal time for a square ball infringement.
It was a careless error given that the net was unguarded and it summed up an often-lethargic contest, as Shane O’Brien’s charges continue to find life tough in the top flight after a 32-year absence.
Waterford: B Nolan (0-01); S Fives, C Prunty, S McNulty; K Power, D Fives, I Daly (0-01); J Dillon (0-01), M O’Brien; N Montgomery, D Lyons (0-02), J Fagan (1-00); D Hutchinson (0-01), S Bennett (2-08, 0-04f, 0-04‘65’), P Curran (0-02).
Subs: M Kearney (0-01) for O’Brien (27), B Power for Hutchinson (42), P Mahony (0-01) for Montgomery (49), K Moran for Power (56), T Barron for Curran (66).
Westmeath: A McHugh; B Doyle, T Doyle, A Ennis; A Craig, A Clarke, S Clavin; C Boyle, E Price (0-01); J Boyle, D McNicholas, R Greville; N Mitchell (1-06, 0-05f), D Clinton (0-01), D O’Reilly.
Subs: A Devine (0-02) for O’Reilly (16), C Doyle (0-04) for Clinton (35 + 1), A Cox for B Doyle (41), S McGovern (0-01) for McNicholas (53), J Gilligan for Greville (61).
Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin).