Widnes will have greater challenges to come in the Qualifiers but for the moment they will be satisfied they avoided a major upset at the hands of the part-time side Halifax to record their first win of the mini-league and take a significant step towards Super League survival.
Widnes entered the Qualifiers as the side identified by many as most vulnerable when it comes to relegation to the Championship and, while this 36-12 victory does not guarantee a place in Super League next year by any stretch of the imagination, at least it ends a six-match losing streak to give Denis Betts’ side a platform from which to move forward.
Widnes scored seven tries to Halifax’s two to pick up a deserved win – with four more victories from their final six games likely enough to secure a top-three finish and avoid the perils of the Million Pound Game in their bid to retain their top-flight status.
Their defeat by Warrington – coupled with Halifax’s courageous effort at Hull KR last weekend – created the serious possibility of the Vikings being on the receiving end of a major upset which could have left them needing to win all their remaining games in the Qualifiers to stand any chance of the top three.
B but, ultimately, their Super League class showed with four tries in a 15-minute passage of play either side of half-time which took the game away from a determined and resolute Halifax side. Richard Marshall’s men, with a budget around a sixth that of Widnes, will certainly cause all the top-flightsides they play in the Qualifiers problems: but Widnes were too strong on this occasion.
“It was a tough game, wasn’t it?” said Betts. “It’s been a tough few weeks and Halifax had nothing to lose here. Their fans were cheering them on and they got really stuck into us but we got ourselves into a nice, comfortable position.”
For Halifax their run in the Qualifiers courtesy of a top-four finish in the Championship is more about the significant financial boost it will provide the club. Their players took a pay-cut at the beginning of the year – which was restored on qualification for the “middle eight” – but this was a courageous effort from the part-timers, much like last week against Hull KR.
“We had a tough lesson today but sometimes you need to go through those experiences,” Marshall said. Widnes would only breach the Halifax line once in the opening 33 minutes, with Chris Bridge’s eighth-minute try all they could muster. Eventually the amount of defending Halifax had to endure would tell, with Widnes taking the game away from them either side of the break.
First Lloyd White and Charly Runciman scored tries to open up a commanding 18-0 half-time lead before a brace from the wing, Corey Thompson, after the interval extended that lead to 26. At that stage a comprehensive defeat for Halifax appeared inevitable but to the part-timers’ credit, they rallied, scoring twice through the centre, Ben Heaton, to add some respectability to the scoreline before late tries from Joe Mellor and Danny Craven eased any nerves the Vikings may have had over a Halifax comeback.