Widnes triumph via a memorable fightback
WIDNES..................................................... 19 DIDSBURY TOC H ................................... 14
WIDNES made it back-to-back wins after a sensational second half comeback against Didsbury at Heath Road.
You would not have given tuppence for their chances after a disappointing first period in which they trailed 14-0.
But, what a transformation after the break as they produced a much more assured and controlled team display to eventually wear down their opponents and get themselves over the finishing line with a late try from Arnie Haydock.
For the visitors, however, they will have been mightily disappointed to have lost their way in that second period, after a first half display that should, and could, have produced more points, such was their earlier dominance.
But, points mean prizes, and the home side cannot have done any more that secure a valuable first home league win of the campaign at the start of a critical phase that may well define the remainder of their season.
As kick-off time approached, the persistent and often heavy overnight rain, had finally given way to pleasant blue skies and sunshine, meaning that conditions were almost perfect for the game.
Although Widnes had the early possession, it was Didsbury’s extra pace that almost saw them take the lead following an exciting kick-and-chase after a Widnes breakdown in midfield.
That should have acted as a warning for the home side, but they failed to take heed and some more quick thinking led to stand-off Seb Sheratte scoring a try close enough to the posts for Rory Gibson to add the conversion.
Showing the kind of form that had seen them blow away most of their opponents so far, Didsbury looked a yard or two quicker in thought and deed.
And following another lightning break on 20 minutes, the visitors scored a second try through Mark Harrison which was again converted to make it 14-0.
Back came Widnes from the restart as Gavin Hatton and Will Patient combined to get them close, but at this point it was Didsbury who were comfortably dealing with anything that the home side were able to throw at them in an effort to reestablish a foothold in the contest.
An injury to Hatton then held up play for a few minutes before a speculative up-and-under from Andy Owens caused a few anxious moments in the Didsbury defence before the danger was finally dealt with.
And, that was how things remained with no further additions to the scoreboard before the interval was reached. ●
During the half-time break, Widnes were forced to replace Matty Walker who appeared to suffer a painful thumb injury that forced him to withdraw from proceedings.
There were also second half appearances from Adam Lawton in the centre, Joe Galloway and Mike Garrity who was making his bow this season.
Immediately, Widnes looked to have a bit more vim and vigour as the second period got underway, and a long-range touch-finder from Kevin Leadbetter earned them some decent field position.
Indeed, after both Adam Lawton and Jamie Patient had gone close, the pack – and Haydock in particular – decided to take matters into their own hands for the big No.8 to crash over in trademark style for his fourth five-pointer of the campaign. With full-back Owens adding a fine touchline conversion, it was game on again at 14-7.
From there, and in the face of a much more determined Widnes effort, it seemed that Didsbury began to suffer from some sort of crisis of confidence and they spent much of the remainder of the game penned deep in their own half with only the occasional offering on attack.
Sensing that there was still more to come, Widnes continued to press home their advantage and eventually on 65 minutes, more forward pressure eventually led to smart quick hands and a bullet like pass to James Butler out wide, saw the wing race clear and in at the corner for a try.
Although still behind on the scoreboard, the home side continued to seek out that final winning score.
But, they had to remain constantly on their guard as Didsbury always looked capable of breaking free of their defensives shackles – albeit against the run of play – if the home side were to switch off even for a moment.
As it was, that particular threat did not really emerge, and in the end it all looked so easy as a wide, yawning gap, suddenly opened up in the visitors’ defence allowing Haydock to collect and stroll over for what eventually turned out to be the match-winner.
There was still time, though, for Didsbury to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Wids in an effort to get back into the contest.
In the very last minute there was a frantic kick-and-chase behind the Widnes rearguard before a timely clearance from Owens which finally brought an end to proceedings.
Owens just about edged it as the manof-the-match just ahead of Haydock who now goes to the top of the tryscoring chart after his double.
In the final assessment, this was a crucial victory for the home side who now have back-to-back wins under their belt, and which gives them a great chance now to re-ignite their season after what has been a slow start so far. ● The seconds and thirds were both in cup action and suffered mixed results. The seconds were able to see off the challenge of Colne & Nelson at home to progress into the next round, but the thirds came up against a strong Hope Valley side to crash out at the first hurdle. ● The first-team take a welcome break from league action on Saturday, but instead will take on Aldwinians at home in the newly-created League Cup.
This is the first of three pool games, with the top two joining the winners of the two other groups to form the four semi-finalists.
Like Widnes, Aldwinians have made something of a sluggish start in the ADM Premier League so far and are currently seventh, but are just three points behind the Red-and-Blacks.
Their only win came in a narrow 25-24 win against bottom side Littleborough three weeks ago, but the other games have produced some narrow defeats when they could easily have gone the other way.
It all means that Widnes are going to have to be really switched on for this game if they have ambitions to make further progress in this competition, as well as making it three wins from three to go with successive home wins for the first time this season
In the other matches, the seconds go to Northwich, whilst the thirds are at home to Waterloo in Division Four West.
All games will kick-off at 3pm.
Widnes No.8 Arnie Haydock powers towards the Didsbury Toc H tryline.