Leeds Rhinos narrowly beat Widnes Vikings 20 – 23 in the Challenge Cup last 16 at the Select Security Stadium on Friday night to secure their place in the draw for the Quarter Finals.
Leeds took an early lead with tries from winger Tom Briscoe and former Vikings man Richie Myler despite being down to 12 men after Ash Golding, playing on the wing in the absence of Ryan Hall, was sin binned for a professional foul.
Kallum Watkins was only able to convert Myler’s try for the Rhinos to hold a 10 point lead after 23 minutes.
Widnes hit back almost immediately as second rower Matt Whitley forced himself over from range after taking a pass from full back Rhys Hanbury. Tom Gilmore was unable to add the extras.
The scoring in the first half wasn’t over yet as with three minutes left of the half Myler dropped a goal to put his side two scores in front and a lead of 4 – 11 at half time.
The Rhinos extended their lead within 10 minutes of the second half as Golding and Stevie Ward crossed for Leeds, both converted by Watkins, who were threatening to put a big score on the home side.
Widnes hit back again and scored three tries in nine minutes with Whitley getting his second of the game, Alex Gerrard and Charley Runciman scoring to reduce the arrears to just three points.
With the score at 20 – 23 with 20 minutes to play, both sides jostled for the killer score of the game and it nearly arrived for the Vikings as stand in half back Aaron Heremaia looked to have grounded the ball but was deemed to have knocked on with just four minutes of play left.
Leeds now advance to the last 8 of the Challenge Cup joining Hull FC, Leigh Centurions and Huddersfield Giants who beat Featherstone Rovers, Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity respectfully.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Myler for England?
Myler returned to his former club and showed exactly what Widnes were missing on the night: game management.
There was always a question surrounding Myler as to whether he could control a game but he has shown that on a consistent basis in a Leeds shirt this season.
With Luke Gale injured, Kevin Brown retired and Gareth Widdop being used as a full-back, Myler can stake a claim to be England’s number seven for the upcoming Denver test and he’d fully deserve the recall to the national side.
‘Plucky’ Widnes fall short again
Widnes in 2018 can easily be described as a Jekyll and Hyde side; against the big sides in the league the Vikings have picked up points against Leeds and come agonisingly close to wins against Warrington, Hull, Wigan and Castleford.
Against the so called ‘lesser’ teams, Widnes have failed to turn up producing some of the worst displays in many a year, none more so than against Huddersfield last week.
Does this stem from a mentality problem within the Widnes camp that the players raise their game against the bigger sides, or is it a mentality problem from the opposition who assume a easy game against the Vikings hence the close scores?
Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, Widnes have to find a win from somewhere, and find it fast.
Man Of The Match – Matt Whitley (Widnes Vikings)
The Vikings second-rower was a standout performer throughout the match, running and tackling hard as well as crossing for two well earnt tries.
The former Super League young player of the year is showing signs of his 2016 form which resulted in his nomination for said award and has been one of Widnes’ better players this season in what has been a poor year so far for the Cheshire club.
Widnes Vikings 20
Tries: Whitley (2), Gerrard, Runciman
Goals: Gilmore (2)
Drop Goals: N/A
Leeds Rhinos 23
Tries: Briscoe, Myler, Golding, Ward
Goals: Watkins (3)
Drop Goals: Myler
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Ince, Runciman, Chamberlain, Marsh, Gilmore, Heremaia, Gerrard, White, Burke, Whitley, Wilde, Cahill.
Subs: Leuluai, Olbison, Wellington, Johnstone.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Golding, Moon, Myler, Oldezki, Parcell, Cutherbertson, Ablett, Ward, Jones-Buchanon,
Subs: Peteru, Mullally, Dwyer, Ferres
Referee: G. Dolan