The potential for complacency was Widnes Vikings worst enemy coming into today’s Challenge Cup second round fixture against Whitehaven as the cup kings of the seventies and eighties took on a side who have never made it to Wembley and who are looking forward to their first season back in the Championship after gaining promotion in 2019.
The bookies couldn’t see past the win for Simon Finnigan’s side who had done well to knock out the Dewsbury Rams in the last round a week ago. Matt Cook and Paul Clough were making their first appearances for the Vikings and despite no fans being in the ground the home advantage, and i-pitch, would certainly count in their favour.
Whitehaven had the wind at their backs in the first half and they struck first on eight minutes when Callum Phillips was on hand to take a Connor Holliday pass after the second rower had made a breakthrough the Widnes line. Lachlan Walmsley kicked a simple conversion from the shadow of the posts for a 6-0 lead.
The Marras were showing early on that they weren’t believing the hype or in Widnes just to make up the numbers. The Vikings knew that they were in a match.
The Vikings got over on fifteen, Tyrer crashing over the line and using his strength to get the ball on the ground by the right corner flag. Jack Owens had a tough touchline conversion opportunity which faded across the face of the posts.
Walmsley was held up by great Widnes defence when he crossed the line on twenty-one and the same player was put on report for a biting incident on Connor Dwyer in the twenty-ninth minute.
A couple of minutes before the interval Danny Craven backed himself to drag a couple of tacklers over the line and get the ball to ground for the second Widnes Try. Owens added the conversion to give his side a 10-6 lead.
Walmsley should have grabbed Whitehaven’s second try on the stroke of half time, but he spilled the ball with the line begging. Lewis Else ran in a simple try from a Dwyer pass to further extend the lead, a devastating blow for Haven after a plucky first half performance. Owens added the goal for 16-6 at the break.
There were three minutes on the second half clock when Owens slid over in the corner off a Matty Smith short pass and the Vikings full back converted his own try brilliantly from the touchline.
As the clock counted down and the pressure ramped up on Whitehaven their ball handling and discipline deteriorated in worsening weather conditions.
Tilleke wiped away any remaining Whitehaven hopes as he crashed through a poor defence and grounded one-handed for the fifth Widnes try of the afternoon. Owens slotted the conversion between the uprights for 28-6 with thirteen left on the clock.
Three minutes later Lewis Else scored his second of the day with a scoot from acting half back, stepping off both feet to confuse the two defenders. Owens kicked the conversion for 32-6, Haven already on the bus back to Cumbria.
Sean Croston gained a late consolation to put his side into double figures as he went in down the right-hand side Taking a Karl Dixon pass and going through a big gap. The conversion was unsuccessful, the final score of 34-10 in favour of the home side.
After starting with so much promise it was a very disappointing afternoon for Whitehaven. Widnes, on the other hand will be delighted with the patience that they showed in soaking up the early pressure and then playing their own game to register a convincing win and making progress into the third round of the Challenge Cup. There will be plenty of Super League coaches who won’t be relishing the prospect of a trip to the Halton Stadium in the next round.
Widnes Vikings: Owens (T, 4G), Buckley, Tyrer (T), Spedding, Cross, Craven (T), Smith, Farnworth, Lyons, Clough, Dwyer, Lawton, Baker. Subs: Else (2T), Cook, Wilde, Tilleke.
Whitehaven: Walmsley (G), Worthington, Croston (T), Parker, Bulman, Dixon, Williams, Riley, Phillips (T), Zammit, Gillam, Holliday, Wilkinson. Subs: Cooper, Kelly, Thomas, Thornley.
Referee: Jack Smith.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 8-6, 10-6, 14-6, 16-6 : HT : 20-6, 22-6, 26-6, 28-6, 32-6, 34-6, 34-10 : FT.