Widnes 26-21 Whitehaven

Widnes progressed in the Championship play-offs after an exciting victory over an unfortunate Whitehaven side.

Both teams were missing players, with rumours of a flu virus hitting the Widnes camp, and the game was very stop-start in the first period.

Whitehaven took an early lead when the excellent Leroy Joe danced through three tackles on the last to go over by the side of the posts.

Widnes hit back minutes later when Shane Grady took on his marker on the outside and put the ball down in the corner.

Ill-discipline cost both sides decent field position, but the visitors silenced the home crowd with two quick fire tries. Rob Jackson took advantage of some poor Widnes defence to touchdown before Leeds-bound Kyle Amor stretched to put the ball down under the posts.

And Haven were denied the chance to go 20 points clear when Derry Eilbeck‘s try was controversially ruled out for obstruction by the video referee.

It gave Widnes the lifeline they needed, and they hit back in the closing moments of the first half. A blind-side break orchestrated by James Webster sent Scott Yates flying down the left hand side, but he was tackled in possession when a pass inside would have sent the Vikings in for a certain try. It mattered not though, as Tim Hartley crossed for a four pointer down the right hand side three minutes before the interval.

Whitehaven started the second half without the sin-binned Spencer Miller, dismissed for persistant offending, but they saw out their disadvantage. However, a flat pass near the Whitehaven line found a gap for the Vikings, and Hartley grabbed his second try, running around the posts to set up an easier conversion and reduce the arrears to 18-14.

And after a knock-on by Marc Jackson, man of the match Anthony Thackeray held off one defender and raced 30 metres for a superb individual score and edge the Vikings in front for the first time.

But Whitehaven were not finished, and after great work by Graeme Mattinson created field position, referee Ronnie Laughton penalised Widnes for offside near the side of the posts. Carl Rudd didn’t need a second invitation to tie things up at 20-20.

Mattinson was dangerous for Whitehaven throughout, and he again set the visitors on another break. Craig Calvert was dragged down just metres short of the Vikings line by opposite number Paddy Flynn, but Rudd was in position to slot over a one-pointer to give the Cumbrians a 21-20 lead with nine minutes left.

But Widnes gambled with a short kick and it paid off, as Grady pounced on a loose ball and found wing-man Yates. Yates took the ball forward and reversed it inside for Webster to skip away towards the line. Hartley kicked the goal to leave Haven needing a converted score to win.

The home side kept their cool and refused to take a late drop-goal – they were nearly made to pay after a sloppy kick by Mark Smith was retrieved by a Haven player, but the Vikings hooker pulled off a last ditch tackle to deny the visitors a breakaway try that would have silenced the home support.

Widnes will now play the winners of tomorrow night’s Sheffield and Featherstone clash.

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