Halifax go close against Widnes as Super League class finally tells

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Halifax lost for the first time in 10 games as Super League side Widnes Vikings edged the opening Super 8s Qualifier at the Shay.

Denis Betts’ side triumphed 14-0 after late, late tries from Chris Gerrard and the excellent Australian centre Charly Runciman finally settled a tense, tight encounter.

The final scoreline hardly reflected the contest, with Richard Marshall’s team of part-timers, assembled on a around a fifth of the Vikings’ playing budget, put their visitors on the rack.

Widnes led 4-0 inside the last 10 minutes, but Fax had their chances; the electric Ben Johnston and Australian prop Mitch Cahalane both going within a whisker of touching down.

In the end, the Vikings had just enough left in the tank to hold on for the win, but if Fax can maintain the levels of energy they showed here - and add a little more composure with the ball - they will continue to a handful for the more fancied sides over the next seven weeks.

Widnes had looked predictably stronger and sharper from the off, with captain Kevin Brown pulling the strings behind a pack that was rolling forward well.

Ironically, it was Fax who carved out the first clear cut chance when Johnston raced clear from a Scott Murrell pass and sent Jacob Fairbank racing for the try line.

The cover converged just as the back rower’s legs began to tie up and he ended up inches short, although Stefan Marsh’s insistence on holding Fairbank down earned him a trip to the sin bin.

Dane Manning was close from a Connor Robinson kick through moments later, but that only heralded a lengthy spell of Widnes dominance, with both Patrick Ah Van and Willie Isa have tries ruled out - quite correctly - as the home side struggled to escape their own 30.

The home defence, such a key component of Fax’s Championship form, held though and as half time approached they ground their way back into contention through Murrell’s kicking game.

Half time arrived at 0-0 though and Fax started the second half strongly, forcing a drop out with some ferocious defence.

Widnes finally took the lead in the 48th-minute, a fortunate ricochet from Brown’s high kick giving Runciman the easiest of tries in the left corner.

Marsh’s conversion attempt drifted wide, setting the scene for a compelling final quarter.

Halifax: Johnston; Saltonstall, Heaton, Tyrer, Saxton; Robinson, Murrell; Tangata, Kaye, Cahalane, Moore, Manning, Fairbank. Subs: Ambler, Bracek, Maneely, Barber

Widnes: Hanbury; Marsh, Dean, Runciman, Ah Van; Brown, Mellor; Gerrard, Heremaia, Dudson, Clarkson, Galea, Isa. Subs: White, Cahill, Tickle, Manuokafoa

Referee: Rob Hicks