Widnes Vikings missed the chance to move off the foot of the Betfred Super League table as they suffered a 32-12 defeat against the Catalans Dragons in Francis Cummins’ first game in charge.
Played in sweltering conditions at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, it was the Vikings who made the better start, as Jay Chapelhow pounced on a kick into the in-goal area after Greg Bird had failed to properly deal with Aaron Heremaia’s kick.
They stretched their on the 15 minute as, straight off the back of a scrum, the ball was thrown wide to Rhys Hanbury, who evaded Brayden Wiliame to touch down.
However, it was the hosts who would enter half-time with a slender advantage, as first Josh Drinkwater’s perfectly-timed grubbed kick allowed Tony Gigot to touch down under the posts, before the Australian’s next menacing use of the boot was fumbled by Stefan Marsh, allowing Williame to capitalise.
Drinkwater added a penalty kick just half-time to give the hosts a 12-10 lead, but Patrick Ah Van locked the scores with a two-pointer of his own just after half time, as Julian Bousquet saw yellow for a late shot on Jay Chapelhow.
Two Michael McIlorum passes swung the game firmly in the Dragons’ favour, the Englishman first sending Remi Casty crashing over, before another short-ball enabled Kenny Edwards to score his first try for the club.
With the game all-but wrapped up, Steve McNamara’s side added further gloss in the 77th minute. After a Widnes knock on, Drinkwater’s kick behind the defence on the free play was booted further on by Fouad Yaha, who just managed to touch down before the dead-ball line.
The result means that the Vikings are now nine league games without a win, whereas the Dragons have won seven of their last eight outings. Widnes now travel to a similar out-of-sorts Salford next Thursday in what could be a huge game, as the reality of ending of finishing in the bottom four looms larger for both sides.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Drinkwater eases Dragons thirst for victory
Josh Drinkwater has been a revelation since his arrival in Perpignan; the Dragons have won six of the seven games that the mercurial Australian has been involved in so far.
The 25-year old seems to have found his perfect club now in the Dragons and his composure and creativity around the ruck has been exactly what Steve McNamara has been crying out for.
This Dragons outfit was a far cry from the side that were humiliated in round one by the Vikings. Now, they play with swagger, verve and intensity. They sit just one point outside of the top eight after overcoming their torrid start to the season and, with a Challenge Cup semi-final in their diary, things are looking far rosier in the South of France.
Signs of improvement for the Vikings
It may have been a familiar outcome for Widnes fans, but there were certainly signs of improvement in Cummins’ first game at the helm.
Defensively, the Vikings were far more intense and they more than matched the Dragons down the middle for the opening hour. Danny Craven was a real thorn in the side and Rhys Hanbury produced a performance of old, topped off with a try.
It really was a baptism of fire for the first game of a new era at Widnes. Ultimately, it looked like conditions caught up with the Black and Whites towards the end.
An away trip to Salford now provides a far more viable chance of victory. It really is a must win for the Vikings, who could see themselves deeply entrenched in the bottom four if the Red Devils, one of the teams around them, walk away with the two points.
Man Of The Match- Josh Drinkwater (Catalans)
There wasn’t really anyone else on the pitch to hand this accolade to. Drinkwater was far and away the biggest threat on the park yesterday.
He seems a totally different player to the one that was relegated with Leigh Centurions. His ability to keep Samisoni Langi out of the team is testament to the wonderful job he is doing; selections headaches like these are exactly what Steve McNamara will be wanting going forward.
Catalans Dragons 32
Tries: Gigot, Williame, Casty, Edwards, Yaha
Goals: Drinkwater 6
Drop Goals: n/a
Widnes Vikings 12
Tries: J.Chapelhow, Hanbury
Goals: Craven, Ah Van
Drop Goals: n/a
Catalans Dragons: Gigot, Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha, Bird, Drinkwater, Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty.
Substitutes: Anderson, Bousquet, Maria, Edwards.
Widnes: Hanbury, Ince, Marsh, Runciman, Ah Van, Mellor, Craven, J. Chapelhow, Heremaia, T. Chapelhow, Whitley, Hauraki, Olbison.
Substitutes: Leuluai, Wilde, Johnstone, Farnworth.
Ref: Chris Kendall