Widnes Vikings 22
Tries: Mellor, Hanbury, Phelps, Dean
Goals: Tickle 2/2 Marsh 1/2
Wigan Warriors 22
Tries: Tomkins, Gelling 2, Burgess
Goals: Smith 3/4
Widnes Vikings snatched a point late on in a controversial season opener as they fought back to draw level with Wigan Warriors 22-all, despite losing Kevin Brown to injury and Patrick Ah Van to a red card.
The New Era started with a bang in a great battle which was overshadowed by the performance of referee James Child.
He harshly sent off Vikings winger Ah Van early in the first half as he caught Josh Charnley high, not long after Liam Farrell was unpunished for a late and high shot on Joe Mellor.
The man in the middle then gave Matty Smith a yellow, which could have been a red, as he kicked Rhys Hanbury after Chris Dean levelled the scoring.
The Warriors started the game well with Joel Tomkins scoring the first try of the season when he brushed off a weak tackle from Stefan Marsh to score an unconverted try in the corner.
After 15 minutes Anthony Gelling extended the lead of the visitors when Smith’s brilliant pass led to a John Bateman break before he found the supporting Matty Bowen, who in turn found Gelling.
Smith’s conversion gave last year’s grand finalist a 0-10 lead.
Widnes lost skipper Brown after a big hit from youngster Ryan Sutton left him concussed.
Then the controversial dismissal of Ah Van made things even harder for the home side and the man advantage helped Gelling grab a second when he scored in acres of space out wide, with Smith making it 0-16 with the touchline conversion.
Wigan winger Charnley didn’t return after he left the field concussed and Ah Van was spotted shaking hands with his opposite number in the tunnel after the incident.
The 12-men of Widnes did manage to get on the scoreboard before the end of the first half though, as Joe Burgess’ knock on was scooped up by the impressive Joe Mellor who raced 50 metres to score.
Danny Tickle converted to make the half-time score 6-16 in favour of Shaun Wane’s Wigan.
The second half started perfectly for the home side as Hanbury marked his 100th Super League appearance with a try when he timed his run onto Mellor’s grubber to touchdown a converted try.
With the deficit just four points the next score was crucial and after constant pressure on the Vikings line, Burgess scored out wide before Smith’s conversion stretched the lead back to 10 points.
Both forward packs battled it out in the middle of the park and the Vikings were desperate for a try to get them back in the game.
Cameron Phelps answered his side’s prayers with 13 minutes left on the clock as he scored in space out wide after a clever cut out ball from fullback Hanbury, although Marsh couldn’t convert from the touchline.
Denis Betts’ men kept knocking on the Warriors door and a perfectly timed short ball from Aaron Heremaia saw Dean force his way over to send the near 10,000 crowd into hysteria.
Marsh knocked over the conversion from in front of the sticks to end the first game of Super League XX in a 22-22 draw.
Man of the Match
Aaron Heremaia – Joe Mellor was outstanding as he stood up in the absence of skipper Kevin Brown, however interchange hooker Heremaia changed the game when he entered the fray. He sped up the play and got in behind the Wigan markers to expose their defence on numerous occasions, and his ball was perfectly timed and weighted for Chris Dean to level the scores and earn the home side a point.