Saturday 7th. November 2015
North 1 West
Widnes 19 - 23 Wilmslow
The Wolves looked to be in deep trouble when they went 19-8 adrift early in the second half away at Heath Road. Widnes had scored three well taken tries in the space of fifteen minutes and looked on track to record only their second win of the campaign. Maybe they should have made more of the opportunity but that would have meant stifling Wilmslow's captain for the day, No. 10, Bob MacCallum.
MacCallum realised that Wilmslow's plan A to release their illustrious midfield backs wasn't working so he resorted to plan B, the aerial route. Such was the accuracy of his kicking, that he set up numerous attacking positions close to the Widnes line but it still took two tries in the last fifteen minutes from the base of the scrum to ensure that they would clock up their eighth success of the season.
The critical moment had come in between these two scores when the Wolves misfielded the restart and the ball seemed to go into touch, only to immediately bounce back into play, where it was gathered in by the Wolves. Instead of an attacking lineout on the Wilmslow line for Widnes, the Wolves were able to clear to halfway, where they were awarded a set piece. Just when Widnes had needed the intervention of lady luck, she had deserted them. A salutary reminder of the words of a certain Australian after the Joubert incident: 'It's no good complaining about it, in this game you just have to take what you get.' It was a tough call.
Overall, Wilmslow had enough of the possession and territory to just about deserve their win, which saw them move up to second place in the league. Widnes players and supporters will probably feel that it was hard on them as they had nearly done enough themselves to have taken the points, which would have moved them above both Leigh and Broughton Park at the foot of the table.
The Wolves had started brightly and had kept Widnes penned into their own half for fully thirty minutes but their only score came from right winger Harry Patch after eight minutes. The try had its origins in a masterly piece of pillaging at the breakdown by No. 8 Alex Taylor, who then drove on and ensured quick ball down the narrow side before the Widnes defence could regroup. Past masters of the art, McCaw and Pocock, would surely have purred their approval at Taylor's play.
But that was all that came from this period of dominance. Ms. Welsh, the two Leadbetters, O'Connor et al in the Wids back line effectively snuffed out any threat emanating from Legin Hotham and Ed Stobart in a period during which the Wolves were unable to put more than one or at most two phases together. No matter, how much the vociferous Wilmslow supporters howled about offside encroachment by the Wids backs, it was exchange referee Richard Walker's opinion that mattered and he found no fault with the wily Welsh and his mates.
On the half hour, yet another Wilmslow attack was broken up and a long kick out took the home side for the first time into Wilmslow's twenty two. A forward pass then gave the Wids a scrum from which a simple piece of passing put their captain Paul O'Connor clear. The restart went horribly wrong for Wilmslow as a loose ball was hoovered up by Welsh in his own twenty two and another bout of passing ended with Wids No. 8 Kieron Arndell scampering in under the posts. From nowhere the Wids were suddenly 12-5 ahead. MacCallum, courtesy of the cross bar, got three points back as half time beckoned but there was still time for Wolves lock Adam Hewitt to pick up a Yellow Card and for Widnes to miss a long pot at goal.
They started the second half with the perfect hanging ten yard kick, knocked the ball back and launched an immediate attack which saw left winger Anthony Leadbetter only narrowly denied. The Wolves defended the scrum well but when they had a chance to clear their lines, they got turned over and the Wids found plenty of space on the left for lock Mike Jones to run in their third try.
That though was as good as it got for them. The rest of the game was all about MacCallum and the increasing dominance of the Wolves pack in the set piece. MacCallum soon got his second penalty, when Widnes offended in the scrum as they were being marched backwards towards their own line. As the game entered its final quarter, the Wolves raised the pressure, Wids ' Mike Garrity got a Yellow Card and whilst he was off the field, Alex Taylor touched down for a push over try. Another Yellow card followed for Kevin Leadbetter, deemed to have tackled Hotham off the ball. MacCallum's next kick, eagerly followed up by Sam Cutts, forced Wids in to carrying over their own line.
The Wolves scrum set off again but this time a Wids body inserted itself into the Wilmslow scrum to illegally prevent the defining touchdown. Nobody could have any complaints about the penalty try. Play ended soon after with the Wolves seeking their fourth try but it had still been a mighty close thing.
Next week, Wilmslow are at home for a 2.15pm kick off against Carlisle.
Photo: The referee indicates a penalty for Wilmslow as Widnes players come offside at the scrum
Match report by David Pike.