Halifax Panthers suffer heart-breaking defeat to Widnes Vikings

Halifax Panthers endured an agonising 9-8 defeat to Betfred Championship high flyers Widnes Vikings following a dramatic encounter at The Shay, writes Seb Sternik.

By Mark Berry
Sunday, 13th February 2022, 6:54 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th February 2022, 6:56 pm
Halifax Panthers news
Halifax Panthers news

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.

Both teams bagged one try, but in the end, it was Matty Smith’s drop goal which made the difference.

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 kick into the Halifax corner. Thankfully for the hosts, James Saltonstall was in the right place to mop up the danger.

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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 and crash over the tryline. Joe Edge added the extras with a straight forward conversion.

With five minutes remaining until the interval, Widnes landed another blow as Edge converted a penalty into two more points.

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 played a big part in the try as three consecutive penalties allowed the Panthers to park on the Vikings tryline before shifting the ball out wide to the winger.

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 scores level at 8-8, it was clear that one mistake could cost either team the win. 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 a drop goal which would prove to be the match winner.

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. Halifax 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. Widnes Subs: Eribe Doro, Will Tilleke, Adam Lawton, Lewis Hulme.

Attendance: 2,046

Match Official: Jack Smith