Widnes Vikings: Good to be back in Stobart Stadium action says head coach Paul Cullen after Gateshead romp
Widnes Vikings 50 Gateshead Thunder 6
PAUL Cullen returned to the bench to see his side warm up for bigger challenges ahead with a comfortable win on a bitterly cold Tuesday evening at Stobart Stadium Halton.
Four tries from full-back James Ford on his competitive Widnes debut helped Vikings race to victory in their delayed 2010 season opener as they began their bid to become the first side to retain the Northern Rail Cup.
Eight first-half tries chilled a much-changed and inexperienced Thunder side from Co-operative Championship One to the bone and the visitors never really threatened the holders.
Cullen said: “It was good to get out on the stadium and run some plays.
“We were really pleased with the first-half performance and a little disappointed not to nail a few more scores in the second.
“But at 34-0, the game was won and we had to start thinking about the trip to Batley on Sunday.”
Cullen, who has hitherto been watching from the stand during compassionate leave, added: “James Ford looked nice and sharp, before going off with a bit of cramp in his calf, and he was running the lines that we want him to from full-back.”
Anthony Thackeray opened the scoring on four minutes, running over from left centre from a James Webster pass.
Ford bagged a first half hat-trick with well some well-timed runs from the back but it was big prop forward Steve Pickersgill who landed the try of the night. He showed a rugby brain to match his considerable brawn, latching on to his own grubber kick to score under the posts.
Tries from Matt Gardner, Shane Grady and Chris Dean, who was making his second Widnes debut after returning on a dual registration from St Helens, gave the home side a 34-0 lead at the break – all four subs having by then had decent runouts.
Ford and Dean added further scores, before Thunder winger Robin Peers capitalised on Thackeray’s fumble to salvage a consolation for the visitors, converted by Kevin Neighbour.
Dave Allen responded for Vikings with a close-range try to complete the rout.
Grady (2/4) and fellow young kicker Yates (1/4) added the extras on a difficult evening for kicking as Widnes’s search for a full-time replacement for ‘boot man’ Craig Hall continues.
Vikings’ Northern Rail Cup campaign rolls on to Batley on Sunday (2pm ko).
Vikings: Ford; Yates, Dean, Grady, Gardner; Thackeray, Webster; Pickersgill, Smith, Gannon, Doran, Allen, Gerrard. Subs: Coyle, Kavanagh, Strong, Houghton.
Thunder: Brown; Peers, Wilson, Brown, Lopag; Duffy, Neighbour; Parker, Ryan Clarke, Welton, Humphries, Rhys Clarke, Barron. Subs: Bate, Walker, Cash, Scott.
Star man: Steve Pickersgill