Last gasp defeat for Toc against Widnes
By Arthur Crabtree
Didsbury 19-20 Widnes
Didsbury’s title hopes have taken a hit after Widnes edged an entertaining and physical encounter at Platt Lane.
This was a match of fine margins which was won, in the end, by a long-range penalty with the final kick of the game.
And so Widnes’ impressive winning streak continues, although they were made to work very hard for their victory.
In reality the result could have gone either way – but, in saying that, Toc can play better than this and maybe didn’t deserve to win given their error-strewn start.
That said, a blistering second-half performance did much to undo the poor work of their first quarter.
Indeed, it was good enough to give them the lead with just a few minutes to play – but their failure to hold on to it was hugely disappointing.
What a comeback it would have been against a well-balanced and skilful side.
Didsbury had left themselves a mountain to climb after a careless opening 25 minutes, at which point they trailed 17-0.
From that point on Toc were the better team and would go on to dominate the second period.
Throughout, they met by a fiercely committed Widnes defence with a healthy appetite for work.
Some of Toc’s breathless attacking play was wonderful to watch. They scored three well-worked second-half tries and created lots of other opportunities.
The main difference was that Widnes made Toc work very hard for their scores - but Didsbury didn’t make Widnes work hard enough for theirs.
The visitors ably jumped on the home side’s early mistakes and capitalised via their powerful running game, which caught the home side by surprise.
Their first try came after a number of big, combative carries in the Didsbury 22.
A penalty followed shortly afterwards and within the blink of an eye Widnes lead 10-0.
A well-worked second try in the left corner was the result of a clumsy Toc exit, and two more valuable points were added from a sweetly struck touchline conversion.
It wasn’t the last Toc would see of that cultured right boot.
By half-time Didsbury had wrestled back some of the momentum and were clearly getting more into the game.
Despite the daunting scoreline there was no panic at half time. Toc had seen enough - and created enough - to know they would be much more competitive after the break.
They also freshened things up at the break, bringing on Owen McIntosh and moving Andy Alexander – imperious in the lineout all day - to the flank.
Two changes in the centre - Luke Richmond and Ben Rothwell - added some more impetus with about half an hour to play.
Toc were by now dictating the pace of the game and were generally playing much better and with greater cohesion.
Through a combination of better kicking and some adventurous, aggressive running the home side were finding much easier access to the Widnes 22.
Crossing the try line was another matter, though.
That strong Widnes wall was seemingly made of steel. Eventually, the pressure told. Scrum-half Josh Vize sniped over with 15 minutes to play to make it 7-17.
After another powerful run the impressive Richmond was next to score, dotting down just a few minutes later. The conversion was missed (12-17).
With minutes to play it was all Toc; Widnes looked tired.
After some more phases of exhaustive attacking play, Toc once again found themselves in strong field position.
Scrum after scrum on the Widnes line was backed up by phase after phase of big carries and some slick handling.
Full-back Rory Gibson stepped his way through some tired tackling for Toc’s third score and his conversion put them ahead for the first time in the match.
Widnes were also at this stage down to 14 men having seen one of their players sin-binned for stamping.
So, with a minute to play, Toc found themselves camped in the opposition half with a two-point lead.
It looked as if the great escape was on.
Alas. A penalty for offside gave Widnes an easy reprieve to the halfway line.
It was clear that their attack, down on numbers and blowing, was going to struggle to score a try.
But then another penalty - for a high tackle - opened the door and their excellent full back walked straight through it by absolutely nailing a pressure kick from distance.
This loss damages Toc’s title challenge.
They have now dropped to 5th in the league, so it will be difficult to make up a points difference and also to overtake the teams above them.
However, with a game in hand and a huge match next week against league leaders West Park St Helens, there is still a chance to get back into contention.
It’s a game Toc simply have to win.
Play like they did in the second half here and they have a chance.
Next weekend is away to West Park St Helens. Then on the 2nd February we are at home vs Tyldsley