Widnes Vikings’ pre-season campaign kick started with a victory, as a youthful side defeated Rochdale Hornets 34-24 at the Crown Oil Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Jayden Hatton captained the side, which included new signings Conor Dwyer and Liam Cooper who were both on the scoresheet in the victory.
The Vikings also handed opportunities to four trialists, with fullback Connor Williams, hookers Lewis Hulme and Callum Wood and loose forward Jordan Case hoping to impress.
The game got off to an even start before a poor end to a set from Rochdale gave the Vikings their first attacking opportunity of the afternoon.
After gaining the feed of a scrum just inside the Hornets half, the away side maneuvered their way towards the try line before a flat pass from Brad Calland sent the on-rushing Liam Cooper over on six minutes. Joe Edge added the conversion to give the visitors a 6-0 lead.
Cooper tried to crash over for a carbon copy of his try two minutes later, as he raced onto another flat pass but spilled possession in contact.
Up the other end of the field the hosts replied on 14 minutes, after fullback Connor Williams had done well to halt Declan Sheridan with a great covering tackle only for play to be pulled back for a tackle off the ball.
From the resulting penalty, Andy Lea proved too strong from close range, with Sam Freeman converting from in front to level the scores.
Hornets spilled the kick-off, as Ben Forster couldn’t keep hold of Edge’s restart, which gave the Vikings a chance to hit back and retake the lead.
They did just that, as a short side play saw Jayden Hatton find Owen Buckley, with the winger diving over for an unconverted effort with 17 minutes on the clock.
Rochdale replied almost immediately, as the experienced Sean Pencywicz darted over from dummy half, with Freeman’s conversion giving the home side a 12-10 lead.
That two-point advantage lasted just four minutes though, as clever play from Callum Wood saw him break off the back of a quick play the ball, with Calum O’Neill in support only for Shaun Ainscough to haul him down short of the line. From the next play, Connor Dwyer stepped his way over the try line and Edge added the extras.
With seven minutes left of the first half, good play from Edge opened up an opportunity on the right edge, with the ball passed through hands to Buckley who raced in for his second of the afternoon.
A repeat set gave the Vikings a chance to attack inside the last minute of the half, but they couldn’t find a way over.
Half time: Rochdale Hornets 12-22 Widnes Vikings
The Vikings started the second half brilliantly, as Josh Wilde raced onto a flat pass just four minutes after the restart, showing enough pace to cross the try line to the right of the sticks. Calland took over kicking duties to add the extras.
Two minutes later Widnes scored the try of the game, as Dwyer’s pass inside put Dugdale in space, with the number seven racing towards the try line before sending Olly Brookes over in support.
On 50 minutes Rochdale mounted a comeback, as a grubber which struck the post caused chaos for the Widnes defence, with Pencywicz touching down for a simple second try.
The deficit was cut to 10 points just four minutes later, as another grubber caught the visiting defence out, with Adam Hesketh getting on the end of the kick this time.
Rochdale lost their momentum after back-to-back tries, with errors littering the remainder of the game, as rain started to fall heavily at the Crown Oil Arena.
A knock on from Rochdale deep inside their own half presented a late opportunity for the Vikings, with Sean Findlow opting to run the ball on the last tackle as he came agonisingly close to scoring.
That was the final play of any note, as the young Vikings secured a victory in game one of pre-season.
Full time: Rochdale Hornets 24-34 Widnes Vikings
Rochdale Hornets: Sam Freeman, Daniel Nixon, Ryan Bradburn, Ben Calland, Shaun Ainscough, Lewis Sheridan, Adam Jackson, Callum Marriott, Sean Pencywicz, Adam Hesketh, Ben Forster, Jordan Syme, Andy Lea.
Interchanges: Dec Sheridan, Luke Fowden, Sean Mulcahy, Munya Samantanga, Joe Hartley, Seta Tala, Matt Whitehead, Alex Gannon, Liam Aspin, Wayne Bannister, Patrick Algun, Guilherme De Sousa.
Tries: Lea (14), Pencywicz (20, 50), Hesketh (54) Goals: Freeman 2/2, Whitehead 2/2
Widnes Vikings: Connor Williams, Owen Buckley, Joe Edge, Jayden Hatton, Olly Brookes, Brad Calland, Jacob Dugdale, Calum O’Neill, Lewis Hulme, Declan Baker, Liam Cooper, Connor Dwyer, Jordan Case.
Interchanges: Callum Wood, Billy Glover, Jordan Brown, Josh Wilde, James Rutledge, Sean Findlow, Reece Storey.
Tries: Cooper (6), Buckley (17, 33), Dwyer (24), Wilde (44), Brookes (46) Goals: Edge 3/4, Calland 2/2