Warrington Wolves 22
Tries: Monaghan 3, Evans
Goals: Ratchford 3/4
Widnes Vikings 19
Tries: Flynn 2, Hanbury
Goals: Tickle 3/4
Field Goals: Brown
Warrington Wolves fought back from 18-0 down and avoided being knocked out of the play-offs at the first stage by defeating local rivals Widnes Vikings 22-19.
The Wolves started slow but Monaghan’s first try of three just before the break helped turn the momentum in their favour and the experience of the Warrington players saw them over the line.
Widnes coach Denis Betts will be proud of his side who went into the game as big underdogs and came so close to causing a huge play-off upset.
Widnes had a dream start when Gareth O’Brien’s knock on gave them a scrum from ten metres out and Paddy Flynn dove onto Kevin Brown’s grubber to put the Vikings ahead after just four minutes.
Just five minutes later a carbon copy of the first try put Widnes 12 up after Flynn got a hand to another Brown grubber as the Vikings capitalised on another Warrington error.
The game started to heat up when Widnes were penalised for a number of high tackles in a short period of time but they stood their ground and kept Warrington out.
They could have been three tries ahead when Hanbury shrugged off Monaghan but Cameron Phelps couldn’t keep hold of a pass from the fullback when he looked to be in with a chance of scoring out wide.
Chris Bridge’s high tackle gave Danny Tickle a shot at goal but he missed a chance to make the score 14-0 just before the half hour mark.
The ball went dead from the goal attempt though and from the resulting set they were 18-0 up when Rhys Hanbury sliced through the Warrington defence and stepped past his opposite number Matty Russell.
Warrington finally got over though with just five minutes left of the half when Widnes came up with an error after over playing on the first tackle and the league’s top scorer Joel Monaghan dove over in the corner.
Kevin Brown knocked over a field goal just before the end of the half to send his team into half-time 19-6 ahead.
Warrington started the second half well and were back in the game when Joel Managhan picked up his second try of the game as he was too strong for Kevin Brown.
Widnes’ firm grip on the game ended when Rhys Evans scored out wide after Hanbury came up with a knock on just ten metres from his own try line and the Vikings were punished. Ratchford’s missed conversion meant they were three points behind.
The Wolves’ momentum continued and a poor error from Phil Joseph, followed by poor defence led to a Chris Bridge break and he drew the fullback and passed on to Joel Monaghan for his hat-trick try which put the home side ahead for the first time in the game.
Play was stopped after 67 minutes when Matty Russell was on the end of a big hit from Macgraff Leuluai and was stretched from the field.
The game was in the balance and Widnes were pushing for a try to win the game when Hanbury’s wild pass was intercepted by Joel Monaghan, who raced away and looked certain to wrap up the win, but Hanbury chased back and forced a knock on from the Warrington winger.
The Vikings threw everything they could at Warrington but there was no way through as last year’s finalists secured a trip to Castleford in the next round with a 22-19 victory.