Shane Grady of the Vikings takes on the Barrow defence
Widnes 22 Barrow 20
IF THE last two games are any kind of indication, this season is going to be an absolute thriller.
Widnes were out for the count with four minutes to go, yet somehow fought their way back to win with the very last play of the game.
It was, said coach Paul Cullen, a huge show of character.
"It really was a massive effort. To give a side as good as Barrow that much ball and defend as well as we did gives us great hope for the future," he said.
"Considering we lost four players hours before the kick-off, and then to win the game when we were down to 12 men is testimony to the side's fitness and character."
Both sides were reduced to 12 men in the 73rd minute when Ben Kavanagh was red-carded for an incident when he drove the ball into the tackle, and Barrow's Rob Roberts went to the sin-bin for his retaliation.
But it was the Vikings who responded the better, and on 77 minutes, with the score 20-12 in the visitors' favour they began their fightback.
Subtitute Thomas Coyle - on to play at stand-off - took the ball from a scrum and raced through the narrowest of gaps for a try by the posts which Shane Grady converted.
By the time the restart had been taken the seconds had all but run out, but Widnes had one last shot and weren't prepared to waste it. Making good ground up the left hand channel, they went close through Grady before the ball was shipped right, barely kept alive in the middle of the field, and then handed on from Toa Kohe Love to Shaun Ainscough, who wasn't going to be denied in the corner.
The Barrow players slumped on the ground and the hooter sounded while the Vikings were still celebrating. Grady missed the touchline conversion, but it didn't matter.
The Raiders had run up 20-6 lead by the 50th minute and looked in control at that point. Although Widnes fought hard and earned some decent field position for long spells, their attacking options hadn't really caused too many palpitations for the visitors, but they had stood up well to Barrow's big, experienced pack, with the returning Gareth Haggerty getting some valuable game time, and Jim Gannon leading the way with a couple of bell-ringing hits.
The mood began to change just after the hour mark when Mark Smith fired out a pass for Dave Houghton to step and spin out of a tackle to score, and Grady's goal cut the deficit to eight, giving the Vikings just the foothold they needed for their last-gasp assault.
In the first half Barrow had opened the scoring through James Nixon, Rooney converting, but Widnes were soon level with James Webster and Anthony Thackeray intrumental in sending the impressive Liam Farrell over.
"He put in a great shift for us," was his coach's verdict afterwards.
Widnes, however, shot themselves in the foot by failing to reclaim the kick off and Barrow were over in the next set as Liam Harrison crossed. Then, three minutes later, Nathan Mossop got in for a soft try from acting half-back. A conversion and two penalties from Rooney either side of the interval put last year's Grand Final winners 20-6 ahead, but the story of the game had only just begun.
Widnes: Ford, Ainscough, Kohe Love, Grady, Gardner, Thackeray, Webster, Haggerty, Smith, Gannon, Farrell, Kavanagh, Gerrard. Subs: Coyle, Varkulis, Strong, Houghton.
Barrow: Broadbent, Ballard, Harrison, Halliwell, Nixon, Luisi, Rooney, Bracek, Henderson, Roberts, Noone, Catic, Fletcher. Subs: Young, Knowles, Mossop, Larkin.
Referee: J Leahy