Widnes Vikings were beaten for only the second time this season, as they went down 20-18 to Batley Bulldogs at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
A youthful Vikings side were beaten late on by a penalty goal, as they missed out on an opportunity to climb off the bottom of the Betfred Championship table.
Kieron Purtill handed Sam Freeman his debut for the club, with Liam Walsh also coming into the team for his first outing of the season, while Jayden Hatton was an unused substitute.
Widnes played down the famous Batley hill in the first-half, and were met by a fierce home defence as they repelled everything the Vikings threw at them in the opening half hour.
In the early exchanges, the visitors were able to force two goal-line drop-outs but were unable to find a way past a resolute Bulldogs defence.
The Vikings finally broke the deadlock on the half hour mark, as back-to-back penalties gave them a set 10 metres from the try line. Widnes were able to take full advantage, as Lloyd Roby collected a pass out the back and found a gap in the defensive line, as he reached out and planted the ball down for his third try in as many games. Jack Owens was on target with the conversion.
Batley were level within six minutes though, as Danny Yates’ kick was dropped over the line by Paul Brearley, before Alex Bretherton pounced on the loose ball. The referee judged that the ball had gone backwards, and Dave Scott’s conversion made it 6-6.
Some late pressure from the Bulldogs saw them threaten to take a lead into the break, however a brilliantly timed tackle from Ryan Ince on Louis Jouffret stopped a certain try and meant the sides would remain level at half-time.
Widnes were back in front five minutes into the second half, as clever play from Hep Cahill opened up a gaping hole in the defence for Jordan Johnstone to race into and score. Owens converted to make it 12-6.
Toby Everett was sin binned three minutes later, and despite being down to 12 men Batley rallied and levelled things up. Following back-to-back penalties, Joe Taira muscled his way over from close range, with Scott adding the extras.
Widnes responded on 56 minutes, as they started a set deep inside the Bulldogs half, with Roby chiming into the line and racing in for his second of the game. Owens opened up a six-point lead with the boot.
The scores were almost level again on the hour mark, as Jouffret’s grubber was chased down by Tom Lillycrop, only for the front rower to drop the ball over the line.
Batley threatened again, as Brearley knocked on attempting an offload after being halted short of the line by Roby, before they managed to find a way over with 10 minutes left on the clock. A short side play from Jouffret saw him offload to Johnny Campbell, who dotted down in the corner, with Scott landing the touchline conversion.
Owens attempted a field-goal up the other end of the field, only for it to sail wide, and then back-to-back penalties gave the home side a chance to hit the front. Scott had the simple task of converting the second penalty from in front, as he sent his side into a 20-18 lead.
From the kick-off, Batley knocked on and regathered possession in an offside position, giving the Vikings a golden opportunity to claw back the two-point deficit, but Owens was off target from the tee.
In the final two minutes, Widnes tried to spark a comeback as they put the ball through hands, but the hosts saw out the remainder of the game to pick up the two points.