Widnes Vikings were beaten 16-28 by Huddersfield Giants in their first game of the new 2017 Betfred Super League season.
Denis Betts’ side gained the ascendency first however, and were almost over the try line within 3 minutes. A neat Chris Bridge grubber kick towards the sticks was put into the path of Rhys Hanbury, but Jermaine McGillvary was able to get to the loose ball and knock it dead for a goal line drop out.
The Vikings were not to be kept out for long however, and great hands from Gilmore and Bridge shifted the ball to the left, finding Hanbury in space. Rhys drew in the Giants defender and put Runciman through a gap for the opening try. Hanbury converted the try to make it 6-0.
Rick Stone’s side started to grow into the game following Runciman’s try, and they replied 7 minutes later through talismanic winger Jermaine McGillvary. A good, sweeping move from left to right found the hands of captain Leroy Cudjoe, who broke the tackler and found space before offloading to McGillvary to score superbly in the corner. Brough missed the conversion.
The away side started to get on a roll, and put themselves in front on the scoreboard a few minutes later through Lee Gaskell. A Brough high bomb wasn’t collected by Hanbury, and the bouncing ball landed in the hands of Alex Mellor who had the simple task to pass on to Gaskell to run in unopposed for an easy score. Brough was able to add the extras this time to make it 6-10.
The Vikings were struggling to gain a foothold in the game, with Brough’s kicking game causing problems, and the Giants extended their lead through McGillvary again. On the last tackle, Huddersfield went down the short side and the ball found Cudjoe, whose grubber kick into the in-goal looked to be going dead but McGillvary somehow got his hand to the ball to score. Brough didn’t convert the try to keep the score at 14-6.
The Giants would add another try before the break through Tom Symonds and the away side were in control. Hanbury knocked on in contact with the defence after brilliantly collecting a Brough bomb, handing Huddersfield the ball, and they were over the tryline again a couple of tackles later. The Australian ran a great line and hit a short ball to outmuscle the defender and put the ball over the line. Brough converted to make it 20-6 to the Giants at half time.
Half-Time: Widnes Vikings 6–20 Huddersfield Giants
Just like in the first half, it was the home side that started the half the brighter, and went very close to reducing the deficit. Hep Cahill broke a tackle to get his hands free and tried to offload to Heremaia with the line gaping, but the forward’s pass inside was just behind Heremaia and the chance was gone.
Despite some good pressure from the Vikings, it was Huddersfield who were to be the first on the scoresheet in the second half through Aaron Murphy. Cudjoe went very close on the tackle before on the right hand side of the field, and the ball was shifted to the left brilliantly and found Dale Ferguson, who offloaded whilst falling to the floor to Aaron Murphy to go in at the corner. Ryan Brierley missed the conversion to make the score 24-6.
Chris Bridge, playing at half back for this game, almost got the Vikings over the line quickly after Murphy’s try. Bridge broke a Giants tackler and looked to be about to put the ball down on the tryline, but it come loose as he fell to the floor to score and Huddersfield recovered the ball.
The Vikings weren’t to be denied though, and got a try back through Stefan Marsh. A brilliant right to left shift ended up in Heremaia’s hand, who was now playing in the halves following Gilmore’s departure from the field. The New Zealander gave a brilliant cut-out pass to Marsh on the touchline, before the winger stepped inside and beat three tacklers to power over for his 50th try for the Club. Hanbury missed the conversion to make the score 24-10.
The Vikings full back would reduce the score even further as Hanbury pounced on a loose ball to score under the sticks. Second rower Matt Whitley tried an inside pass, which somehow hit the floor and Hanbury collected and managed to score, despite Huddersfield protests. Hanbury converted his own try to make the score 24-16 to Huddersfield with 5 minutes to go.
But their slight hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow with two minutes remaining when Cudjoe sealed victory with a try. Brierley fooled the Vikings defence by running on the last tackle down the short right blind side and gave a short ball to Cudjoe who, despite two tacklers, was able to muscle over the try line and get the ball down. Brough missed the conversion but the Giants took the two points back to the John Smith’s Stadium with a 28-16 victory.
It wasn't the result we wanted for our season opener, but with much needed game-time for the returning Bridge, White and Cahill, and some moments of good play, the Vikings will be looking to rebound quickly from this defeat.
Full-Time: Widnes Vikings 16-28 Huddersfield Giants
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury; Thompson, Armstrong, Runciman, Marsh; Bridge, Gilmore; Dudson, White, J Chapelhow, Whitley, Houston, Leuluai.
Replacements: Heremaia, Cahill, Olbison, T Chapelhow.
Huddersfield Giants: Gaskell; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Mellor, Murphy; Brough, Brierley; Ikahihifo, Hinchcliffe, Ta'ai, Symonds, Ferguson, Lawrence.
Replacements: Wakeman, Leeming, Roberts, Clough.
Referee: Jack Smith.