Waterford always looked the better team against a gutsy Westmeath outfit in a somewhat low-key Division 1 game in Mullingar yesterday, with the visitors not flattered by their nine-point winning margin.
Despite having the aid of a strong wind, it took Waterford a while to settle into the game.
Iarlaith Daly opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a long-range point, and the visitors led by 0-3 to 0-1 when Westmeath captain Eoin Price got his side on the scoreboard in the 11th minute. It was 0-7 to 0-2 midway through the first half when Stephen Bennett pounced for Waterford's first goal.
The home team had the gap down to five points (1-8 to 0-6) with 26 minutes elapsed.
A huge cheer greeted the next score when goalkeeper Billy Nolan struck a monster point from open play.
Waterford put further distance between the teams by scoring an unanswered 2-2 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 Déise men led by 3-10 to 0-6 at the interval, so Westmeath needed a good start to the second half. But Niall Mitchell, who had a fine game overall, underhit an early '65' as everything seemed to be coming up short for the O'Moore men.
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 0-9 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 himself.
Waterford should have raised two more green flags before the end. A foul on Fagan as he looked set to score his second goal resulted in a penalty, but Bennett's 64th-minute shot from the spot was superbly saved. Bennett had a goal disallowed in the last minute of normal time too for a square ball infringement after the home defence was carved open.
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.
Scorers - Waterford: S Bennett 2-8 (4f, 4 '65'); J Fagan 1-0; D Lyons, P Curran 0-2 each; B Nolan, I Daly, P Mahony, M Kearney, J Dillon, D Hutchinson 0-1 each. Westmeath: N Mitchell 1-6 (5f); C Doyle 0-4; A Devine 0-2; E Price, D Clinton, S McGovern 0-1 each.
Waterford - B Nolan 8; S Fives 6, C Prunty 6, S McNulty 6; K Power 6, D Fives 7, I Daly 7; J Dillon 6, M O'Brien 6; N Montgomery 6, D Lyons 7, J Fagan 6; D Hutchinson 6, S Bennett 8, P Curran 7. Subs: M Kearney 6 for O'Brien (27), B Power 6 for Hutchinson (42), P Mahony 6 for Montgomery (49), K Moran 6 for Power (56), T Barron n/r for Curran (66).
Westmeath - A McHugh 7; B Doyle 5, T Doyle 6, A Ennis 6; A Craig 5, A Clarke 7, S Clavin 6; C Boyle 6, E Price 7; J Boyle 6, D McNicholas 5, R Greville 6; N Mitchell 7, D Clinton 5, D O'Reilly 5. Subs: A Devine 6 for O'Reilly (16), C Doyle 7 for Clinton (35 + 1), A Cox 6 for B Doyle (41), S McGovern 6 for McNicholas (53), J Gilligan 5 for Greville (61).
ReF - S Stack (Dublin).