York City Knights 18 Widnes Vikings 22
WIDNES extended their unbeaten Co-operative Championship run to four matches with a hard-fought victory on Sunday, and Denis Betts was pleased with his side in testing conditions.
A powerful second-half performance ensured the win for the Vikings but they had to survive a frantic late challenge from the City Knights after Ryan Esders’ late touchdown.
Widnes were almost made to rue their decision to allow loanee Anthony Thackeray to play in the match, when the stand-off went close to scoring a match-saving try against his employers in the final minute.
Torrential rain made playing conditions difficult for both sides and proved to be the catalyst for a much closer encounter than when the Vikings romped to a record-breaking victory in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Vikings head coach Betts said: “The weather dictated a physical battle which probably suited them more than us because they are such a big side, but I was really pleased with how we responded to that.
“We had lots of control in the game but we had to do it tough and just couldn’t get over the whitewash at times.
“We kicked really well in the second half and although we weren’t always able to get on the front foot we stuck at it and got the result we deserved.”
The tackles were uncompromising throughout and with only one minute on the clock, York forward Matt Garside was sent to the sin-bin for a late challenge on Chaz I’Anson as he kicked through on the first set.
But York weathered the proverbial storm and took the lead after 15 minutes when Thackeray’s flat pass put 18-year-old forward Ed Smith through a gap in the Vikings defence.
Widnes levelled things up five minutes later through Kurt Haggerty, before the home side re-took the lead through Ben Jones.
But with the clock running down to half-time Macgraff Leuluai’s strength took him through the tackles to ensure the sides went into the break level at 12-12.
Dom Crosby and Tangi Ropati scored for the Vikings at the start of the second half as they looked to seize the initiative but the Championship strugglers showed great resilience, and fought their way back into the contest when Esders touched down with eight minutes left.
And when Thackeray burst clear after some enterprising play he looked set to score and break Vikings hearts.
But Kevin Penny used his pace to recover and thwart the attack and Widnes were able to see out the final minute unscathed.
Despite the victory, Betts was left frustrated by the performance of referee Craig Halloran.
He added: “I thought we were on the wrong end of some shocking refereeing decisions and looking back at the tape some of the shots our lads took that went unpunished were potentially career threatening.
“I understand that the referees have a very difficult job to do but sometimes when you see that lack of control in the middle the players feel they need to stand up for themselves.
“You like to trust the referees but when things like that happen its hard and emotions can take over but I was pleased that we were able to keep that emotion in check and go on to win the game.”
The Vikings remain sixth in the league table with only nine matches in the regular season left to play, but they have a game in hand on three of the teams above them as they look to climb the ladder ahead of the play-offs.