Widnes Vikings returned to winning ways in emphatic style on Friday night, as they ran in seven tries to see off Sheffield Eagles 36-6 at the Halton Stadium.
The re-arranged Round 4 Betfred Championship fixture marked Keanan Brand’s induction in Club 20, which he marked with a brace of tries in the second half to wrap up the victory.
Academy graduate Jayden Hatton also crossed, picking up his first professional try after returning to the back-line following a concussion that had ruled him out last week.
Kieron Purtill made four changes ahead of the visit of the Eagles, as Jack Owens made a welcome return from a two-game suspension, while Jayden Hatton, Jay Chapelhow and MacGraff Leuluai also came into the line-up. Sam Freeman, Owen Buckley, Lloyd Roby and Owen Farnworth all made way.
Three minutes into the contest the Vikings were off the mark, as great kick pressure forced Anthony Thackeray into a wild offload, before Oliver Davies coughed up possession inside his own 20. Hep Cahill scooped up the loose ball, and at the end of the set he was quickest to a deft Joe Lyons kick, with the captain pouncing inside the in-goal.
Widnes then let a number of chances go begging, as they set up camp on the Eagles line following a huge hit from Harrison Hansen that forced a knock on. Owens managed to break the line and find Lyons in support only for the halfback to be held up over the line, moments before Hansen was also denied over the try line.
Hansen then manufactured another attacking set for the home side, as his hit on Davies caused him to spill the ball, before Ryan Ince was awarded a penalty to advance Widnes to within 20 metres of the try line. From that set, Owens fired a cut-out ball to Hatton who raced in at the flag for his first professional try on his return to action.
A great kick return from Hatton then set the platform for the Vikings’ next score on 20 minutes. Josh Ganson then chose the short side on the last tackle, where Danny Craven’s grubber back inside was chased down by Owens, who rounded the fullback and converted his own effort.
Widnes then started a set inside the Sheffield half thanks to another thundering hit from Hansen, which once again forced the error. On the last, Lyons stabbed a kick into the in-goal, where it sat up perfectly for Chris Dean to collect another four pointer.
The Vikings finished the half with their fifth try of the contest, as Lyons scooped up an Anthony Thackeray knock on to race to the Eagles’ 30 metre. Off the back of that break, Owens came up with another try assist, as his pass ended with Ince producing a spectacular diving finish four minutes from the break.
Two minutes into the second half the home side added to their lead, as dangerous tackles on Ince and Brand advanced Widnes to within 30 metres of the whitewash. Brand then marked his 20th appearance with a try, after charging onto a flat pass from Craven to dot the ball down over the line.
On 55 minutes, Brand had a second, as Ince returned Thackeray’s kick into the Sheffield half which laid the platform for the Vikings centre to race in untouched on the next play. Owens’ added the extras and made it 36-0.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, the Eagles finally broke their deadlock and found a way past Widnes’ resolute defence. A clever short side play exploited an overlap on the right edge, where Ben Blackmore was able to cross for an effort that was improved by Pat Walker.
Sheffield’s one and only try proved to be the last score of the contest, as the Vikings climbed out of the bottom two and returned to winning ways.