After three losses on the bounce Widnes Vikings finally came good against Halifax on Maundy Thursday, well, sort of.
Fourteen tries, thirteen goals and a drop goal punctuated an eventful game and one that Widnes could and perhaps should have won with more conviction.
Early on, the Vikings were unsurpassed as new vice skipper Chaz I’Anson pulled the strings in midfield and helped by his team-mates, twenty year old fullback Danny Hulme claimed a ten minute hat-trick to establish an early 16-0 advantage.
That should have been enough to secure a handsome win but to their credit, Halifax still know how to score points and after displaying a rare measure of control, during which time they forced two drop outs, halfbacks Graham Holroyd and Ben Black created space for former Viking Michael Ostick to cross against his first professional club and Holroyd booted the first of six goals.
Straight from the restart, Black came up with a howler when he passed forward inside his own in-goal area. From the drop out Widnes pushed forward and after they had been held up over the line, the next play brought a try when I’Anson kicked for the tryline and Holroyd fumbled before Simon Finnigan got the scoring touch just ahead of Tangi Ropati. Although Steve Tyrer missed the conversion, Widnes led 20-6.
Both teams traded sets before a raking I’Anson kick was allowed to bounce by the experienced Paul White. Paddy Flynn was rewarded for his pressure and an offload found new dual-contract signing Logan Tomkins and the hooker spun over for Tyrer to land his third goal. The centre was then on hand to convert the Vikings sixth try after 29 minutes when Thomas Coyle blasted out of dummy half to surge over the line.
Halifax gave notice of their attacking potential when an eighty metre break was started by booming passes from Penkywicz and Holroyd for Paterson and then White to carry on. Just when it looked like the visitors would score, the Vikings defence turned up with MacGraff Leuluai and Tyrer tackling.
The Vikings went over again from dummy half through Tomkins after White allowed a long drop out to bounce out of play, although another short kick-off was regathered by Fax and resulted in Dylan Nash holding off two defenders to crash over. 36-18 looked a likely half-time score but a penalty was awarded just inside the Vikings half and allowed Tyrer to pot a long range goal to stretch the half-time advantage to twenty points in favour of the hosts.
The second half started at break-neck pace and Halifax were rewarded when Paterson ran strongly and somehow found an offload when faced with the corner flag and three defenders. White reacted quickly to saunter over for his eleventh try of the season.
Holroyd tried to change momentum with an excellent kick downfield that saw both White and Hulme contest. Unfortunately for the visitors, the call went against Halifax and Widnes were next on the scoresheet when I’Anson’s chip outfoxed Makali Aizue and Finnigan pounced for his second try of the game.
Just after the hour a wonderful pass from Holroyd saw Black steam through a gaping hole and the Australian realeased at the right time for Sam Barlow to run under the posts. Holroyd converted in double quick time and although the visitors continued to scare Widnes, the last pass seemed to go astray. In one movement the ball fizzed left to former Viking Stephen Bannister and instead of straightening things up, he inexplicably turned inside, crabbed across field and threw an awful pass for Black. Fax lost nearly thirty metres on the play in a fine display of Benny Hill Rugby League.
Widnes could never rest easy and I’Anson chipped in with a drop-goal to make it 45-30. Five minutes from the end Miles Greenwood took a direct route to the Widnes line and although he was held up, Nash used his considerable bulk to force his way through for a second try, again expertly goaled by Holroyd.
On their next possession, Halifax panicked and Widnes claimed their victory, thus condemning the visitors to a fifth defeat. There was still just enough time for Tyrer to land his seventh goal with another penalty after Penkywicz was placed on report for a late tackle on I’Anson.
Widnes: Hulme, Flynn, Ropati, Tyrer, Gardner; Mellor, I’Anson; Varkulis, Coyle, Kavanagh, Finnigan, Leuluai, Allen. Subs: Grady, Houghton, Tomkins, Sculthorpe.
Tries: Hulme (2, 7, 10), Finnigan (19, 55), Tomkins (24, 34), Coyle (29).
Goals: Tyrer 7/10.
Halifax: Greenwood, White, Paterson, Haley, Worrincy; Black, Holroyd; Ostick, Beswick, Gannon, Chandler, Bannister, Fairbank. Subs: Nash, Aizue, Penkywicz, Barlow.
Tries: Ostick (15), Paterson (21), Nash (37, 75), White (43), Barlow (61).
Goals: Holroyd 6/6.
Referee: Ronnie Laughton.