WIDNES VIKINGS stormed past a resilient Batley Bulldogs (32-12) in horrendous weather on a day which saw most other sporting action postponed.
While the 4G pitch was never going to cause a problem, the conditions made it a challenge for the visiting team and spectators to make their way over to Cheshire.
The kick-off had to be put back by 15 minutes as the Bulldogs squad only arrived at around 2pm. They made a suitably slow start when the game did get going, and did likewise again in the second half after battling back to leave coach Craig Lingard disappointed.
“We gave Widnes a two-try start and then in the second half, after we got back into the game, again we came out and conceded two tries before we managed to get going. That was pretty disappointing,” he reflected.
“I think I might have been a bit harsh on the players after the game. When I looked back, I didn’t think we’d done as badly as I thought we had done.
“As much as we want to win every game and perform in every game, I think you’ve got to be realistic about where we are as a team and a squad compared to the budgets in that league.”
On the challenge brought by the conditions, Lingard added: “To be fair the weather in the first half was pretty decent, minus a bit of wind, but 15-20 minutes into the second half it absolutely came down with rain, hail, snow, everything that could be thrown at us. It was treacherous in those last 20 minutes.”
Jake Spedding got Widnes off to a flier after only three minutes of action when the superb Matty Smith launched a towering kick that Shane Grady got on the end of to put the four-pointer on a plate.
Ten minutes later the Vikings were in again as Deon Cross dived over in the corner. Skipper Jack Owens knocked over the conversion with the help of the wind and the upright.
It was everything Widnes deserved after a very dominant first 20 minutes, building on their rout of Oldham the previous week. They should have turned up the heat after Owens had sent over a 30-metre penalty, but they left the door ajar for the Bulldogs to rampage through.
They didn’t have to be asked twice and, led by the impressive James Brown and Toby Everett, they began to get a stranglehold in the game after being outgunned in the first quarter.
It was Brown who led from the front. The burly lock bustled his way through the heart of the Vikings midfield and he laid on a neat effort for Ben White, who should have scored.
The Bulldogs weren’t to be denied and on the very next play they sent in Lewis Galbraith. Hooker Alistair Leak added to that by burrowing over from close range, with Luke Hooley’s two goals levelling it up.
The Vikings had played the more enterprising rugby league, but had naively surrendered the lead and were now involved in a dog fight.
After smelling blood, Batley were showing signs of turning the screw, but like Widnes had done for 15 minutes previously, they lost concentration. Just before the break Spedding touched down out wide after excellent work from Smith, Owens and Logan Tomkins.
Smith was at it again for Widnes as his delayed pass then put the charging Kenny Baker over, and the game was over as a contest on the 52-minute mark as Widnes defied the challenging conditions to run in two further scores.
The excellent Grady, who pushed Smith close for man of the match, barged over with a charging run and Owens had the final say a minute from time.