Widnes Vikings took the spoils against Halifax Panthers in a closely-fought battle at The Shay


Widnes Vikings came out on top in a closely-fought game against Halifax Panthers to retain their place at the top of the Betfred Championship table. 

A late Matty Smith drop goal proved to be the difference as Vikings held on for a 9-8 win to claim their first victory at Panthers in a regular season since 2006.

The conditions in Yorkshire were tough for both sides and the pitch had taken the brunt of the heavy rainfall over the past couple of days. This Round 3 contest was always going to be tight, with the sides being restricted from an expansive style of play. 

The Panthers were their own worst enemies in the first quarter of the game, giving away penalties and valuable possession to the inform Vikings.

Halifax did well to deal with the pressure for 21 minutes before Widnes were able to penetrate the defence. The try came from a pinpoint chip through from Smith, which left the Panthers defenders in two minds about taking the ball in.

Eribe Duro took advantage to leap above Kevin Larroyer to draw first blood for the visitors, and with the conversion in front of the sticks, Joe Edge added the extras simply.  

Widnes were clinical with their sets and kicks on the last tackle, whilst Halifax had the task of starting their attacking sets deep in their own half.

The penalties continued to add up against the Panthers, and they conceded again when Tyler Dupree stole the ball in front of their sticks allowing Edge another easy kick. 

With an eight point advantage, Widnes piled on the pressure as they tried to twist the screw into Halifax. The hosts muscled up in defence to keep the Vikings out of a third try before the half-time hooter, but they found themselves 8-0 behind and with all the work to do in the second-half. 

After the restart, Widnes continued to pin Halifax in their own half, making it difficult for them to clear their lines. Halifax gained some valuable field possession off the back of three successive penalties, and the Panthers took advantage of the applied pressure with some lovely hands.

Ed Barber linked up with James Saltonstall to send him over in the corner for Halifax’s first points of the game, and Joe Keyes landed a fantastic touchline conversion to bring the game to within two points. 

As the Panthers did in the first half, Widnes became their own worst enemies as they penalties mounted up. A head-hight tackle under their own sticks allowed Keyes to level the scores after 54 minutes. 

Halifax almost gave Widnes the opportunity to add another two points twenty metres from their line, off the back of another high tackle. However, on this occasion, Edge was unsuccessful with less than 20 minutes to go.  

The Panthers were fortunate not to concede a try moments later as a Widnes kick was fumbled through three Halifax players’ hands, but the referee deemed Vikings to be offside from the kick.

Halifax came up with a coach killer when dropping the ball on the first tackle giving Widnes possession 20 metres away from the Halifax line. Smith rubbed salt into the wounds of the Panthers, when he slotted a drop goal to give the Vikings the lead with 13 minutes remaining. 

Both sets of players dug deep for the final ten minutes, in which the intensity of the drives and tackles did not falter.  

Halifax got themselves into a prime position following some fancy footwork from Zack McComb. However, a drop goal attempt from the Panthers failed to take flight and it ended up skidding along the mud, relieving some of the pressure on Widnes’ defence. 

The defence soon turned to attack at the other end of the pitch as Smith’s cross field kick was fumbled by McComb under some heavy pressure from the chasing defenders.

A massive defensive effort from the Panthers on their own line was rewarded as Widnes knocked on at the play the ball. However, the error came too late for Halifax to gain any traction off the back of it.  

This was a messy, hard-fought game clouded by penalties and handling errors from both sides. What could have been anyone’s game, went the way of Vikings who came away with a third successive victory to maintain their 100% start. 

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