Widnes Vikings overcame 12-man West Wales Raiders at Stebonheath as the Welsh side’s new half-back pairing of Rangi Chase and Gavin Chase were halted in their tracks just as they were starting to make an impact.
It could have been so different though. Raiders made an outstanding start, nearly taking the lead on nine minutes. Chase made the initial run, sprinting 50 metres before being short on the final play of the length of the field set.
A high tackle by Danny Craven on 11 minutes saw him see yellow and Raiders took advantage straight away. Fijian former British Army winger Urai Naulusala was on the end of a good passing move to ground in the corner. Henson’s conversion attempt was wide.
However the game was turned on its head by two incidents – an injury and a red card.
The match was stopped on the 14 minute mark for 20 minutes, when former Ireland U19 international Calum O’Neill was involved in an on-field clash and was knocked unconscious. Thankfully he had regained consciousness by half-time.
No more than 90 seconds after the restart, with Raiders having lost their momentum, Widnes won their first penalty of the match. From that, Shane Grady ran through for their first try which Jack Owens improved.
It got worse for the Welsh a few minutes later after Jamie Murphy’s tip tackle on Owen Buckley earned him a sending off. Only when the numbers went temporarily back to 12-each early in the second half, when Will Tilleke was sinbinned for an illegal tackle, did the two sides look fairly even once again.
In addition to the high profile signings of Henson and Chase; Eparama Bogibisoka, Urai Naulusala, Morgan Allen, Murphy, Marcus Webb, Tom Morgan and Joe Burke were all making the club debuts. However the latter four had all featured in the past for the old South Wales Scorpions club.
For Widnes, Tilleke and Josh Wilde made their senior debuts, while Ste Tyrer and Adam Lawton made their first appearances since re-joining the club in the off-season. Tyrer, along with Matty Smith, were both returning to Wales having starred for Celtic Crusaders in Super League in 2009.
Tyrer went over in the corner for Widnes’ second try on 23 minutes and Owens converted again.
Deon Cross ran through for the next on 27 and Owens followed him over from kick-off, the full-back converting both.
After a fair period of Raiders pressure, Widnes went back onto the attack and Cross fed Jake Spedding for their fifth.
Widnes went into the break 28-4 up as Owens had missed the kick, but the full-back extended his side’s lead just 55 seconds after the restart, scoring under the sticks and kicking the goal.
The Vikings didn’t cross again until the 57th minute, not long after yellow carded Tilleke had returned to the field. Tyrer scored his second try of the day, then six minutes later, Spedding saw a gap to claim his brace. Both went unconverted.
Raiders did give Widnes a couple of scares, both after a bit of magic from Chase. First Mike Connor was held up over the line, then Raiders won a drop-out after Chase’s grubber caused a few issues.
Marcus Webb escaped a card after he mistimed a tackle, but from the resulting penalty, Tyrer ran over for his hat-trick.
A late injury to Daf Phillips, with no subs left for Raiders, meant it was 11 v 13 for the final five minutes and a deflated Welsh side let in two more scores as a result – Adam Lawton first to bring up the half-century before Owens scored another under the sticks that he easily converted.
1 Phil Cowburn
2 Urai Naulusala
33 Jamie Murphy
4 Marcus Webb
5 Emosi Nadaubale
6 Gavin Henson
7 Rangi Chase
8 Tom Morgan
9 Dafydd Phillips
27 Morgan Allen
11 Mike Connor
12 Joe Burke
13 Morgan Evans
Subs (all used):
15 Ashley Bateman
28 Eparama Bogibisoka
16 Sam Herron
23 Fraser Stroud
Tries: Naulusala (12)
Goals: Henson 0/1
Red Card: Murphy (20, tip tackle)
1 Jack Owens
18 Owen Buckley
3 Jake Spedding
4 Ste Tyrer
5 Deon Cross
6 Danny Craven
7 Matty Smith
16 Owen Farnworth
17 Joe Lyons
13 Kenny Baker
11 Shane Grady
12 Adam Lawton
21 Calum O’Neill
Subs (all used):
23 Lewis Else
15 Connor Dwyer
22 Josh Wilde
24 Will Tilleke
Tries: Grady (16), Tyrer (23, 56, 72), Cross (27), Owens (30, 41), Spedding (38, 63), Lawton (75), Owens (78)
Goals: Owens 7/11
Yellow Card: Craven (11, high tackle), Tilleke (45, illegal tackle)