Widnes Vikings made a winning return after over a year since their last competitive fixture, defeating West Wales Raiders to book a Challenge Cup second round tie with Whitehaven.
Captain Jack Owens moved into 10th place in the club’s all-time point scoring list with a hat-trick of tries and a 26-point haul.
Returning centre Ste Tyrer also grabbed a hat-trick, while Adam Lawton crossed the whitewash and had a hand in two tries on his second debut for his hometown club.
Academy graduates Will Tilleke and Josh Wilde were handed their First Team debuts on a memorable afternoon for the young duo, however the visitors were dealt a blow with the injury to Calum O’Neill, who had to be stretchered from the field early in the contest.
Danny Craven was sin binned 10 minutes into the contest, and from the resulting penalty the hosts took full advantage. Rangi Chase managed to keep the ball alive on the last tackle, forcing an offload to Uraia Naulusala who crossed out wide for an unconverted score.
A lengthy stoppage followed as O’Neill suffered a head injury, with the young forward having to leave the field on a stretcher.
Soon after the restart, the Vikings forced an error from the Raiders and managed to hit the front, with Shane Grady racing over untouched after collecting a drop-off from Matty Smith. Jack Owens knocked over the conversion to make it 6-4.
With the momentum shifting the way of the visitors, a dangerous tackle by Jamie Murphy on Owen Buckley saw the West Wales centre red carded just minutes before Craven returned to the field following his yellow card.
Widnes then added their second of the afternoon on 21 minutes, as a simple passing move through hands allowed Tyrer to stroll in on the Vikings left edge for another six points.
Five minutes later the away side added to their lead with a great breakaway try, as Adam Lawton managed to spin out of a tackle and offload to Jake Spedding, who drew the final defender and handed Deon Cross a try. With the conversion, Owens moved into 10th place in the club’s all-time points scorer list, overtaking Martin Offiah.
Straight from the kick-off set Lawton proved too strong once again, breaking the line before passing inside to the supporting Owens who touched down under the sticks. With the conversion, the Vikings moved into a 24-4 lead.
With three minutes of the half remaining, clever thinking from Owens saw the fullback take a kick under pressure and find Cross before the on-rushing defence arrived, with the winger striding through the middle and into the West Wales half. With Marcus Webb in pursuit, the Vikings wide man found Jake Spedding who had the pace to finish a brilliant effort.
Half-time: West Wales Raiders 4-28 Widnes Vikings
In the opening minute of the second period the Vikings were in again, as Grady skipped across the line before picking a hole in the defence, offloading to Lewis Else who drew the fullback and handed Owens his second try.
Debutant Tilleke was sent to the sin bin shortly after for a cannonball tackle, which allowed the home side to place some pressure on the Vikings line, however they stood tall to the task.
On 56 minutes, off the back of a goal-line drop out forced by Smith, Tyrer was able to collect his second try from a short side play, barged over the top of a defender to score.
An error from Gavin Henson then led to another Vikings score six minutes later, as his offload was picked off by Tyrer before Spedding collected a Smith pass to complete his brace.
Nine minutes from time Tyrer completed his hat-trick as a perfectly weighted cut-out pass from Lewis Else meant that that returning centre could walk in for a six-pointer.
Else then created another Vikings try for Lawton, sending the second rower over against a depleted West Wales defence, before making it a hat-trick of try assists when the young half-back dummied through the line and handed Owens his hat-trick try.