Vikings take Easter derby spoils
Widnes Vikings 38 Warrington Wolves 22
By Rachel Arnett (photo courtesy of Bob Brough)
Warrington made the short journey to their neighbours Widnes at the Stobart Stadium for the first of their local derbies.
These matches are renowned for seeing both teams step up to the plate as the rivalry is steeped in history both on and off the pitch. And this Good Friday clash had all the ingredients to continue this tradition.
There were a few of changes to the Wolves line-up from last week with Brett Hodgson, Michael Monaghan and Chris Bridge missing; O'Brien and Evans joined the starting 13 and Harrison, who returned from injury, was on the bench.
The Widnes 17 also saw three changes with Hock, Pickersgill and Briscoe named; Cross, Kavanagh and Leuluai out for the derby encounter. Cross was named on the initial team sheet but was replaced by Joseph prior to kick off.
This encounter turned previous derby results on their heads. Widnes came out firing wanting to prove a point following last week's defeat at the hands of Wigan. The home side kept the visitors under wraps in the opening half and went in with a six-point cushion at half time. Despite the Wolves' comeback at the start of the second half it was the Vikings who raised their game to extend their lead and take the spoils.
Stefan Ratchford got the game underway giving the Vikings the first attacking set. Strong drives down the middle from the home side saw them pass halfway but a loose ball in the offload handed possession over to the Wolves. Carvell was quick to respond and the visitors built their first set of pressure.
The desire from Widnes was there to see as they stepped up their defence forcing the Wolves into pressured kicks on the last.
It was the home side that showed the first signs of scoring. Flynn looked to have the pace down the right wing but an important tackle by Myler put a halt on his open run. The set ended with a chip kick to the in-goal area which resulted in a drop-out for the Wolves.
Play then swapped ends and it was the Wolves building momentum. Widnes conceded a penalty for a shoulder charge giving the visitors an opportunity 20 metres out. Grix came to within five metres and both Higham and Myler tried to dummy their way through to no avail. A high kick from O'Brien was knocked back by Joel Monaghan looking to keep the ball alive but Hock was positioned well to take the pass.
Just past the 10 minute mark Atkins was unable to follow up a Ratchford kick to the corner before the ball ran out of play but the Vikings capitalised on their next period of play. Having built some pressure, play was carried from right to left and on 17 minutes Ah Van was over for the opening try which he converted to take the score to 6-0
Less than 10 minutes later the Wolves were able to respond. After some entertaining, and often tense, end-to-end play the Wolves were able to open up some space close to the line and, following build-up play from Ratchford and Myler, Riley crossed in the corner on 24 minutes. O'Brien converted to level the score.
As the half progressed there were a few heated moments which captured the intensity of the game. Despite three repeat sets from 30 metres out the Wolves were unable to break the Vikings down. The story was not the same at the other end. A fumbled offload by the Wolves was a gift to the Vikings who, from a scrum 20 metres out, were able to put Hanbury over from Clarke's pass. Ah Van converted. 12-6.
The second half started in a different vein with the Wolves securing the early momentum. It wasn't until eight minutes in that the Vikings had possession.
A penalty to the Wolves from the restart gave them the attack from halfway. A Myler kick to the corner saw the ball batted back by Widnes into the hands of the visitors who converted this repeat set into points. Play was carried right and Evans was able to collect from the cross-field kick to twist over in the corner. O'Brien's boot levelling the score once again.
The Wolves took the lead for the first time soon after, having up the tempo of their game. Quick hands involving Westwood and Ratchford set up Myler to fly over under the sticks. The conversion was added, 12-18.
But the Vikings weren't lying down. Once they regained some possession they crossed for their third through Flynn in the corner on 49 minutes. The ball was passed through several pairs of hands but it was Pickersgill who drew in the defence down the right to open up space for Flynn to cross. Ah Van drew the score level. 18-18.
The lead was taken back by the home side just as the final quarter got underway. Ah Van added a penalty goal following a high shot.
Soon after, Hill looked to be in for a certain try breaking away from the pack but the pass he collected was deemed forward to deny the score. Play then switched ends and the pace of Hanbury was on show as he left the defence in his wake to cross on 66 minutes. Conversion added. 26-18
Despite the Wolves trying everything to keep the ball alive the Widnes defence kept them wrapped up. Contrastingly the Vikings' attack was able to find the gaps to break away from the Wolves' defence. A break by Mellor down the middle set up White for his try with just seven minutes remaining. The conversion was added 32-18.
The Wolves weren't done though as long passes from right to left put Riley over for his second. A long pass from Ratchford to Riley missed out several players to out-pace the defensive line. O'Brien's conversion attempt was missed. 32-22.
The final say of the game came from the home side as with seconds on the clock Flynn crossed in the corner. White gathered pace down the touchline having picked up the ball from a ricochet and with Flynn in support it was a certain try. Converted by Ah Van the Vikings took the spoils 38-22.
Wolves' head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said: "I don't think we played well enough to win that game today. We got out-enthused and didn't control the speed of the game like we needed to. We had a little period after half time when we realised we had to take control of speed of play the ball. We had to try and speed it up but we weren't able to sustain that unfortunately and that's down to the enthusiasm of Widnes today. They were terrific - enthusiastic with their support play and pushed hard for each other. Their defence was pretty solid too after the last couple of weeks when they've leaked a few points they've gone back to the drawing board and worked hard for each other so they deserve all the credits that they receive from this victory.
"It was one of those days for us today. It wasn't silky smooth. (You've got to) put your hand up and concede at the end of the game and we've had to do that and say Widnes were better and deserved it today.
"We weren't going to play the same 17 players for two games three days apart. There were some longer-term views taken on some of our chiefs, if you like, Hodgson and Monaghan. We will have them back for Monday. Neither one of those two was going to play both games over the weekend nor was Bridge and neither will some of the boys in that changing room now - some won't be playing two games over the weekend."
Shaun Briscoe, Paddy Flynn, Chris Dean, Willie Isa, Patrick Ah Van, Rhys Hanbury, Joe Mellor, Steve Pickersgill, Jon Clarke, Eamon O'Carroll, Dave Allen, Gareth Hock, Hep Cahill
Subs: Phil Joseph, Alex Gerrard, Lloyd White, Frank Winterstein
Tries: Ah Van, Hanbury (2), Flynn (2), White
Goals: Ah Van (7)
Stefan Ratchford, Chris Riley, Ryan Atkins, Rhys Evans, Joel Monaghan, Gareth O'Brien, Richie Myler, Garreth Carvell, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Simon Grix, Ben Westwood, Mike Cooper
Subs: Trent Waterhouse, Ben Harrison, Paul Wood, Ben Currie
Tries: Riley (2), Evans, Myler
Goals: O'Brien (3)
Game Pictures courtesy of Bob Brough
29, Mar, 2013