Widnes Vikings 20-23 Leeds Rhinos

Widnes Vikings 20-23 Leeds Rhinos widnesvikings.co.uk

11th May 2018

Widnes Vikings were knocked out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, suffering a 23-20 defeat despite a hard-fought second-half resurgence. 

The home side were 11-4 behind at the break, Matt Whitley’s try cancelled out by scores from Tom Briscoe and Richie Myler, who also slotted over a drop-goal just before the interval.

Ashton Golding and Stevie Ward extended the lead further in the second half, before Whitley’s second, Alex Gerrard’s charging effort and a Charly Runciman score got Denis Betts’ side back into it.

The Vikings pushed for a winner in the closing stages but couldn’t quite break down a determined Leeds defensive line, the visitors holding on and securing their passage to the next round.

The Vikings made the brighter start and forced a repeat set through second-rower Whitley, who was blocked off chasing his own kick through on the last. However, the chance went begging when Ryan Ince spilled Tom Gilmore’s kick on the last under pressure.

The Vikings soon saw themselves temporarily with a man advantage after just 12 minutes, largely thanks to the good work of Lloyd White.

The Welshman made a sublime 60 metre break downfield before offloading to Runciman, whose wonderful looping pass back found Hanbury, who was held 10 metres short. However, the referee deemed that Ashton Golding held onto the full-back for too long in the tackle and subsequently saw yellow.

The Rhinos did manage to hit the front just a few minutes later as Jack Walker found space in the midfield following a good charge by Anthony Mullally, before the ball was thrown out to Tom Briscoe to touch down out wide.

The Vikings thought they had scored on the 20-minute mark, but winger Ince was adjudged to have been in an offside position before claiming Gilmore’s bouncing kick and diving in at the corner. 

Brian McDermott’s side extended their lead to 10 shortly after when Stevie Ward broke through a gap in the middle, before a clever inside pass found Myler to dive under the sticks.

Nevertheless, a superb hit by Tom Olbison on the very first tackle on the next set, paving the way for the Vikings to open their try tally.

The ball was thrown from right to left with speed and intent all the way to Hanbury, whose short ball found Whitley to crash over from close range. Tom Gilmore narrowly missed his conversion from the side-line, leaving the game evenly perched at 10-4.

Just seconds after Lloyd White left the field through injury, Leeds half-back Myler got the ball in centre field and opted to go for a drop-goal, making it 11-4 heading into the interval.

Half-Time: Widnes Vikings 11-4 Leeds Rhinos

Leeds stretched their lead four minutes into the second half thanks to nice hands out to Ash Handley, who produced a lovely flicked ball out to Golding to touch down. Kallum Watkins converted from the touchline to leave the Vikings 13 points behind.

Stevie Ward added to his earlier assist with a try of his own on the Rhinos next foray downfield. Richie Myler chose to go himself on the last, before offloading to the Leeds number 13, who spun his way over the whitewash.

However, the visitors were penalised for an incorrect play the ball seconds after play resumed and the Vikings made them pay, Whitley crashing onto a Jordan Johnstone short ball to score his second, before Gilmore made it 23-10.

Widnes got themselves back into the game in excellent fashion, gaining field position off the back of some ill-discipline by the Rhinos. The ball was thrown about on the last, before Gerrard took matters into his own hands and muscled past three Rhinos defenders.

The home side scored back-to-back tries after a high kick was dropped was Jack Walker, allowing Rhys Hanbury to break down the left before throwing it back on his inside for Runciman to finish off a well-worked try. Gilmore converted under the sticks to make the score 23-20.

Widnes had a half chance shortly after, following a good charge downfield. The ball was moved through slick hands out to Runciman, who fumbled the ball under pressure.

As the conditions worsened going into the last ten minutes, Widnes were handed good field position when Brad Dwyer knocked on going for an audacious interception. However, the ball was put to ground by Hanbury as the ball was flicked out from the ruck.

After a short injury stoppage for Mikolaj Oledzki, the Vikings broke downfield following a Matt Parcell knock-on. Jordan Johnstone saw a gap in the line and went through, but a wonderful tackle forced the spillage.

However, the Vikings superbly pushed at the scrum, forcing a knock-on by the Rhinos ten metres from their own line, before Ryan Ince chased his own kick and trapped Ashton Golding in his own in-goal.

Aaron Heremaia thought he had scored on the third tackle of the resultant set, but he agonisingly knocked on in the act of touching down under pressure after dummying his way through the Rhinos rear-guard.   

The Vikings threw the ball around as the final hooter sounded, but Stefan Marsh’s kick-chase was claimed by a Rhinos man, ensuring that the visitors hung on for a nail-biting win.

Full-Time: Widnes Vikings 20-23 Leeds Rhinos

Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Ince, Runciman, Chamberlain, Marsh; Gilmore, Heremaia; Gerrard, White, Burke, Whitley, Wilde, Cahill. Replacements: Leuluai, Olbison, Wellington, Johnstone.

Leeds Rhinos: Walker; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Golding; Moon, Myler; Oledzki, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Ablett, Ward, Jones-Buchanan. Replacements: Peteru, Mullally, Dwyer, Ferres.

Widnes Vikings 20-23 Leeds Rhinos widnesvikings.co.uk