Wolves Rise To The Challenge
Widnes Vikings 22 Warrington Wolves 30
By Rachel Arnett
The Wolves and Vikings kept up with tradition going head-to-head in this Boxing Day friendly.
Local derbies between the two sides are always exciting dates in the calendar. This was the first pre-season run-out for both sides as the new Super League campaign draws ever closer.
The Wolves named a mixed team made up of both experienced and young, up-and-coming players. A significant inclusion in the starting line-up was Paul Wood in his first game since sustaining the injury in the Grand Final back in October.
There was plenty of entertaining Rugby League on display from both sides throughout the entire game with the score line remaining close but it was the Wolves who were able to edge the lead at half time and as the final whistle went.
The Vikings got the game underway with the Wolves first in attack, but a knock-on after the first few tackles gifted the Vikings a scrum head and feed 20 metres out. The Wolves defended well and were unlucky not to force the home side into touch, but a chip kick from the Vikings on the last was fumbled by the Wolves and Jack Owens was on hand to collect and score the first try on three minutes and go on to add the conversion. 6-0.
On six minutes the Wolves created their first period of pressure but the ball was lost 10 metres out and the home side regained possession. A Widnes error soon after, following a charge down, gave the visitors a scrum near half way and a fast-paced passage of play followed, keeping the ball alive out to the left. The Vikings kept the Wolves from the door by wrapping the ball up in-goal leading to a drop out from under sticks.
The Wolves responded with a try on 15 minutes. A penalty 25 metres out gave them the field position and Carvell had the strength to force his way through the defence to cross under the sticks. Gareth O'Brien was on hand to add the extras to level the scores. 6-6.
The visitors' second try was added only minutes later by Mendeika. A great break from Riley down the middle created space and a well-timed pass out to Mendeika in support saw him weave round the chasing defenders to score just at the end of the first quarter. O'Brien added the two from in front of the sticks. 6-12.
The Wolves continued to pepper the line, testing the Vikings' defence, but the home side held strong to keep them out. The tables then turned and, following a penalty, it was the Vikings over for the next try through Danny Craven who forced his way over the defenders to cross under the sticks as the half hour mark approached. Owens added his second conversion of the afternoon to level the scores once again. 12-12.
On 31 minutes Ryan Shaw looked certain to be over in the corner but the Vikings defence flew over for a try-saving tackle, taking him into touch before the ball could be grounded.
With two minutes of the first half remaining a knock-on from the Wolves gave the home side the attack from 20 metres out, but an unlucky bounce of the ball put paid to a try as the ball travelled into touch. The Wolves used the remaining minutes to their advantage and were able to gain enough ground down field to open up space for Mike Cooper to cross giving the visitors the lead going into the second forty. O'Brien added another successful conversion. 12-18.
The second half saw the Vikings take to the pitch in their second kit of the afternoon adding some variety to the game; the half opening with some entertaining end-to-end play. Repeat penalties for the Wolves provided the opportunity for the first score of the half. Ben Currie crossed in the corner for O'Brien to convert edging the visitors further ahead. 12-24 on 47 minutes.
The Vikings' response came on 54 minutes with a try under the posts for Danny Craven who crossed for his second. Owens added the conversion to narrow the gap to six points. 18-24.
The supporters from both sides got into the spirit of the local derby as the game continued to build momentum throughout the second half, and the game got interesting when Patrick Ah Van flew over in the left corner to put the Vikings just two points behind with the kick to go. Owens' kick from the touchline drifted wide. 22-24 as the final 10 minutes approached.
On the 70-minute mark the pace of the Wolves came into play. Higham broke free from the defence to fly over for the Wolves' fifth try of the afternoon. O'Brien added the extras to extend the visitors' lead once again. 22-30.
The Vikings responded well in attack and Riley was forced to scoop the ball up in goal to prevent a try on two consecutive occasions. The drop-outs travelled close to half way giving the Wolves space to set up their defence which held strong.
Both teams fought to the final hooter but it was the Wolves who were able to hold on and secure the victory 22 points to 30.
Head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said after the game: "It was a good hit out for us. I was really impressed by a lot of facets of our play and the overall way we went about the game. I thought we had a couple of lapses, a dummy half sneak-over try which isn't really what we're used to or like to concede, but aside from two or three lapses I thought we were very good; defensively, I think we only got broken once down the middle in the whole game. There were a few leaders out there who paved the way for the young guys. We had 17 British players out there and all but three were home-grown which I'm really pleased about as it shows how much time and effort we've put into developing young players in our club and there's some real talent coming through. Just about all of those boys who played a part today I hope will play a part throughout the year in the first team. I thought there were some really good performances out there right across the board."
On his first game back after recovering from the injury sustained in the Grand Final prop Paul Wood added: "I'm just glad to get it under my belt and just get a bit of confidence back really. It's the same with a few of the lads, as many of us haven't played since the Grand Final.
"I was quite nervous (going into the game), obviously I was worried about my previous injury. Once the game kicked off I did feel a bit rusty but it's a pre-season friendly and we'll kick on from here, I know what I need to work on now.
"It's blown away a few cobwebs and it's been a useful game. I thought the young lads did well today and showed a lot of enthusiasm and defended really well against an experienced Widnes team. I think a lot of them will appear in Super League soon.
"These fixtures, Boxing Day Widnes v Warrington, always tend to be close; it was quite fiery at times. I thought both sides played some good rugby."
Jack Owens, Paddy Flynn, Stefan Marsh, Chris Dean, Willie Isa, Joe Mellor, Grant Gore, Alex Gerrard, Phil Joseph, Ben Kavanagh, Macgraff Leuluai, Frank Winterstein, Dave Allen
Subs: Cameron Phelps, Patrick Ah Van, Hep Cahill, Ben Davis, Danny Craven, Tom Gilmore, Declan Hulme
Tries: Owens, Craven (2), Ah Van
Goals: Owens (3)
Chris Riley, Rhys Williams, Rhys Evans, James Saltonstall, Ryan Shaw, James Mendeika, Gareth O'Brien, Garreth Carvell, Micky Higham, Paul Wood, James Laithwaite, Ben Currie, Mike Cooper
Subs: Gene Ormsby, Gavin Bennion, Brad Dwyer, Danny Bridge
Tries: Carvell, Mendeika, Cooper, Currie, Higham
Goals: O'Brien (5)
Half Time: 12-18
Full Time: 22-30
Photos by Bob Brough
27, Dec, 2012