NO WALK IN THE PARK FOR SEFTON
In a classic game of ‘two halves’ Widnes mounted a comeback of almost epic proportions to claim the spoils in what was an amazing second half revival.
And, whilst Widnes were able to celebrate their win, Sefton must be wondering how on earth they managed to let this one slip through their fingers after scoring at a rate of more than a point a minute in the opening quarter and go in at the break leading by 21pts – nil.
They may, of course, reflect on the fact that they had two men sent to the sin bin, or that they were on the wrong end of the penalty count. But, in the end, they will be nothing other than hugely disappointed to have thrown away such a big first half advantage.
But, back to the home side, and what a transformation it was, as they rolled up their collective sleeves to recover and seal what turned out to be an unlikely bonus point victory and a first win in four attempts against their Merseyside rivals.
Once again, the heavy overnight rain meant the fixture was switched to the Lynton Crescent ‘Arena’ for a third successive home game, and it didn’t begin well for the red and blacks as they conceded an early try and conversion from John Fenton to give the visitors a 7 – nil lead.
The Sefton momentum continued, and just four minutes later the visitors were at it again as they stretched the Wids defence out wide to get Anthony Alderman in at the corner with fullback Fenton goaling in style from touch to double their advantage.
If things couldn’t get any worse, the fragile Wids defence then managed to press the self-destruct button allowing Sefton to take full advantage with a third try in the opposite corner which was again converted by the deadly boot of fullback Fenton.
Widnes then tried to stem the tide by introducing both Arnie Haydock and Callum Isbell from the bench, but even when a Sefton player was sent to the sin-bin, they were unable to make any headway.
On the stroke of half time, the referee then despatched a second Sefton player into the ‘bin meaning they would begin the second half with yet another man down.
Either way, if Widnes did have any ambitions to try and rescue something from the game, then it needed to be quick. And, fortunately, their response wasn’t long in coming, as prop forward Justin Winstanley crashed over for a try from close range which was converted by Kevin Leadbetter.
Then, just moments later, captain Leadbetter was sent on a long weaving run to the line for a second try in as many minutes. This time, the conversion attempt was wide of the mark, but it was now game on again at 12 – 21.
Sefton then attempted to calm their nerves, as fullback John Fenton converted an excellent long range penalty to partly restore their earlier advantage on the scoreboard.
Despite the Sefton mini-recovery, their respite was short lived as quick hands from the Widnes back line sent in Andy Owens in at the corner for another try.
The visitors then had an opportunity to score, but an excellent tackle by fullback Owens on wing man Harry Bailey saved the day.
After that close call, back came Widnes, and when Sefton were unable to clear the danger, Josh Paton was on hand to fly kick the ball almost to perfection, before following up to touch down. Kevin Leadbetter then added a superb touchline conversion to amazingly make it all square again at 24 – 24.
With everything back in the melting pot, it was now a question of who would crack first, but by this point all the momentum now appeared to be with the home side.
With time counting down, Kevin Leadbetter then had a couple of chances to put Widnes in front. His first effort hit the post and bounced out, whilst the second attempt was narrowly wide of the mark.
At the third time of asking, though, the Captain did hold his nerve to calmly stroke over a penalty that would finally give his side the lead for the first time in the match.
With the result assured, it hardly seemed to matter when he then hit the upright with yet another penalty attempt in the dying seconds.
But that was it, the game was over and Widnes had secured a stunning victory.
Hooker Pawl Makles was selected as the man of the match, but he was pushed all the way by several other candidates in what was a terrific team effort.
Afterwards, a delighted Wids Head coach said “This result shows just how far we have come with limited playing resources, not only in terms of unavailability but also players who have left the club recently. Despite all that, we are now up to sixth in the league with this win and still have a cup semi-final to look forward to”.
He added “We showed plenty of heart to get back in the game with a team full of youngsters who were all terrific and showed plenty of determination to fight back and get the win. It was a credit to all involved”.