It was third time lucky for Warrington Wolves boss Steve Price, as he finally got off the mark with a win over Widnes Vikings.
In what was a heated Cheshire derby, the visitors did enough to survive a late fightback despite going down to 12 men.
After defeats to Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants, Warrington could breathe a sigh of relief, while the hosts were left to ponder what could have been for a second week in a row.
Stefan Ratchford was the game changer, as he came up with a number of important plays, including a try and a try saver.
It will be a tough pill to swallow for Widnes, especially after their one point loss to Castleford Tigers a week earlier. Head coach Denis Betts lamented the quick turn-around for his side, however their lack of size was there for all to see.
With just three prop forwards in their line-up, which included youngster Jay Chapelhow, it was always going to be a tough task.
It got tougher eight minutes in, as Declan Patton was given too much space to put a bomb up, and Ryan Atkins climbed highest to touch down.
Thank you to everyone who backed the boys today. We appreciate the support. pic.twitter.com/ru1csHjPXZ
— Widnes Vikings (@WidnesRL) February 16, 2018
A brilliant try-saving tackle from Olly Ashall-Bott denied Matty Russell, before Ratchford crossed from a tap-penalty play which seemed to come from a Ben Currie forward pass. It was given, and Bryson Goodwin’s first conversion of the night made it 10-0 with 14 minutes played.
The Vikings’ response came eight minutes later, as Tom Gilmore forced a goal-line drop-out. From the resulting set Joe Mellor stabbed a kick into the in-goal, where Krisnan Inu was on hand to score.
There was a stoppage in play as Joe Philbin came off worst in a heavy collision with Hep Cahill, and the Warrington forward didn’t return to the pitch.
Cahill then came close to giving the home side a vital score on the brink of half-time, but he was held up over the line.
It took just six minutes for the Wolves to extend their lead, as a Rhys Hanbury knock-on was punished. Atkins was on hand to pluck another cross-field kick out of the air and make it 16-4 in his side’s favour.
There was another lengthy stoppage in play as Phil Bentham had to leave the field, following a collision with Chris Houston. It’s not the first time the two have clashed, as whiplash forced replacement referee Scott Mikalauskas to take over.
An error from Ashall-Bott was followed by a penalty, with Goodwin opting to put Warrington three scores in-front at 18-4.
Jack Hughes thought he had put the game beyond Widnes’ reach on the hour mark as a fight erupted in back-play. The referee called play back though and awarded the hosts a penalty.
With 15 minutes left to play Inu grabbed his second and gave Widnes Vikings hope, taking a Gilmore bomb and forcing his way over for a six pointer.
As the home side gained momentum, Ratchford came up with a game-winning play. Chapelhow was over the line, only for the Wolves fullback to knock the ball free before he could ground it.
Despite Mike Cooper spending the final eight minutes in the sin-bin for a professional foul, the visitors soaked up the pressure and saw out the win.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Stefan Ratchford – The Warrington Wolves fullback scored a vital try, but his most important involvement saw him deny Chapelhow late on. After a disappointing start to 2018, it was the perfect response from the England international.
Widnes Vikings 10
Tries: Inu (22, 65)
Goals: Gilmore 1/2
Warrington Wolves 18
Tries: Atkins (8, 46), Ratchford (14)
Goals: Goodwin 3/4
Sin-bin: Mike Cooper (72, professional foul)
Widnes Vikings: Rhys Hanbury, Stefan Marsh, Krisnan Inu, Matt Whitley, Olly Ashall-Bott, Joe Mellor, Tom Gilmore, Jay Chapelhow, Aaron Heremaia, Hep Cahill, Chris Dean, Sam Wilde, Chris Houston. Interchange: Danny Walker, Greg Burke, Danny Craven, Tom Olbison.
Warrington Wolves: Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Ryan Atkins, Matty Russell, Kevin Brown, Declan Patton, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood. Interchange: Dom Crosby, Morgan Smith, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Joe Philbin.
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