Halifax Panthers 8 Widnes Vikings 9: How Halifax Panthers were pipped by the Betfred Championship leaders

Halifax Panthers endured an agonising 9-8 defeat to Widnes following a dramatic Betfred Championship encounter at The Shay.

By Sebstian Sternik
Sunday, 13th February 2022, 8:12 pm
Halifax Panthers try scorer James Saltonstall in the 9-8 defeat to Widnes Vikings. Picture: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
Halifax Panthers try scorer James Saltonstall in the 9-8 defeat to Widnes Vikings. Picture: Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

With both clubs expected to be involved in the play-off picture come the end of the season, the importance of this clash couldn’t be underestimated - even if it was only the third round of the campaign.

Playing in muddy conditions, both teams bagged one try each as Matty Smith’s drop goal proved to be the difference maker.

The Vikings, who were looking for a return to the top of the Championship table, made a strong start and threatened early as Brad Holroyd looked to get on the end of a dangerous grubber kick. Thankfully for the hosts, James Saltonstall was in the right place to mop up the danger.

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Widnes Vikings' drop-goal match winner Matty Smith in the 9-8 victory over Halifax Panthers. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

The Panthers were quiet on the attacking front in the opening half, but they did have one serious opportunity as Cory Aston’s grubber kick into the corner proved slightly too strong for Saltonstall.

Just five minutes later, Widnes opened the scoring in controversial fashion. Eribe Doro’s forward pass went undetected by the officials as Widnes shifted the ball out wide allowing Matty Smith to produce a high kick on the last tackle.

Doro, who was involved just moments earlier, was under the ball with Kevin Larroyer and outjumped his opponent to take hold of the ball. The 20-year-old then crash over the tryline as Joe Edge added the extras with a successful conversion.

With five minutes remaining until the interval, Widnes landed another blow as Edge added two more points from a penalty to move Widnes 8-0 ahead.

The second half provided far more action as Halifax tried to get themselves back into the contest.

Saltonstall, who came close to a try in the first half, crashed over in the corner just eight minutes after the restart. Widnes conceded three consecutive penalties allowing the Panthers to park on the Vikings’ tryline before shifting the ball to the winger who finished well in the corner.

Keyes added the extras with a successful conversion and he was soon back on kicking duty as Halifax bagged two more points from a penalty in the 54th minute.

With the score level at 8-8, it was clear that one mistake could be pivotal. The one mistake appeared to have come from the Vikings who opted to kick a penalty in the 65th minute, only for Edge to miss the target.

Widnes kept up the pressure and, when Larroyer dropped a pass from Brandon Moore deep in his own half, the Vikings needed no invitation to make their second opportunity count.

On this occasion, it was Smith who was on kicking duties as he delivered the match-winning drop goal.

With ten minutes still to go, Halifax seemed intent on cutting their losses. However, when Keyes lined up for a drop goal attempt of his own, the muddy conditions scuppered his chances as the ball barely left the ground.

From that point on, Widnes tightened up and completed their third victory of the season.

Halifax Panthers: Joe Martin, Zack McComb, Ed Barber, Joe Arundel, James Saltonstall, Cory Aston, Joe Keyes, Adam Tangata, Brandon Moore, Dan Murray, Ben Kavanagh, Matt Garside, Kevin Larroyer. Subs: Louis Jouffret (not used), Titus Gwaze, Jacob Fairbank, Will Calcott.

Widnes Vikings: Lloyd Roby, Ryan Ince, Matt Fleming, Joe Edge, Brad Holroyd, Danny Craven, Matty Smith, Kenny Baker, Matty Fozzard, Tyler Dupree, Sam Wilde, Olly Davis, Aaron Brown. Subs: Eribe Doro, Will Tilleke, Adam Lawton, Lewis Hulme.

Attendance: 2,046.

Referee: Jack Smith.