Vikings end 2023 with a heavy defeat in West Yorkshire
A late change to the matchday 17 saw 18th man Jack Owens move to the bench in place of the injured Ollie Brookes.
STORY OF THE GAME
With the play-offs sadly unreachable, the Vikings came into this game knowing they’d have to put in one hell of a shift to keep the in-form League Leaders at bay.
The first few minutes of the game were dominated by the defences, before a break down the right by Joey Leilua was finished off by Thomas Lacans, who raced underneath the sticks to open the scoring for Featherstone.
The Vikings almost had an immediate response, as Tom Gilmore drilled a grubber deep into the Rovers’ in-goal area. Ryan Ince chased hard and almost got his fingertips to the ball, but was a fraction too late as it rolled over the dead-ball line.
Widnes’ defence was then called into action several times, but last-ditch tackles from Sam Wilde and Kieran Dixon stopped the hosts from scoring, firstly holding up Mathieu Cozza before Dixon gathered a dangerous kick in the corner.
Pressure would eventually tell though, and Fev landed their second try through Craig Hall after shipping the ball quickly down the line; Mark Kheirallah adding the extras from the tee.
Back came the Vikings though, hitting straight back with a superb breakaway try. Ince’s break down the right split the hosts’ defence, and Joe Lyons was on hand to collect a last-ditch offload and scoot over. Dixon converted to cut Featherstone’s lead in half to 12-6.
Fev quickly re-gained some momentum though, as Junior Moors powered his way over from close range. That re-established the hosts’ 12-point lead, but once again the Vikings found a way back into the game.
Keeping the ball alive 20 metres from the Featherstone line, late offloads from Wilde, Adam Lawton and Matty Fleming gave Ince space in the corner, and the winger pulled off a superb acrobatic finish to get the Vikings’ second try of the game!
Dixon pulled his conversion wide though, and the positivity gained by Ince’s fantastic finish was soon eradicated, as a dropped ball deep in Widnes’ own half allowed Gareth Gale to snatch possession and race over untouched, giving the hosts a 24-10 lead at the break.
Fev would get the first points of the second half too, as Caleb Aekins stepped his way through both the defensive line and past Dixon to dot the ball down, with Kheirallah converting.
Four minutes late, the hosts were over again, Chris Hankinson catching a high ball from Aekins to score their sixth. from close range.
Hankinson was held up over the line by the Vikings defence soon after, however a dropped interception from Joe Edge allowed Fev to build more pressure and Leilua eventually crashed over for his second try. They added another from the next set, Gale breaking down the left wing to dive in at the corner and open up an unassailable 46-10 lead.
The Vikings kept on plugging away in defence, but as they tired the Rovers pulled away in the final 10, adding three more tries through Leilua’s hat-trick clincher, Connor Jones’ scoot over from close range, and a second from Aekins to round off the scoring with Fev’s 11th try.
Despite the 62-10 final scoreline, the Widnes away end never stopped singing and cheered the boys on right until the very end. Thank you so much for your support in this game and for the entire season, and we’ll be back stronger in 2024!
TEAMS AND SCORERS
FEATHERSTONE: Kheirallah; Hall, Leilua, Hankinson, Gale; Aekins, Lacans; Cozza, Wildie, Lockwood, Day, Taylor, Smith
INTERCHANGES: Bussey, Jones, Moors, Yei
TRIES: Leilua (3), Aekins (2), Gale (2), Hall, Moors, Hankinson, Jones
GOALS: Kheirallah (9)
WIDNES: Dixon; Ince, Fleming, Edge, Millar; Lyons, Gilmore; Field, Fozard, Walker, Wilde, Lawton, Brown
INTERCHANGES: Owens, Farnworth, Davies, Roberts
TRIES: Lyons, Ince