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Friday, 26 December 2014

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Under-strength Workington Town put up brave fight at Super League Widnes

Widnes Vikings 30 Workington Town 6: Workington’s makeshift side, asked to take on a Super League outfit which was short of only four first teamers, did Town proud at the Stobart Stadium.

Jack Gaskell photo
Jack Gaskell

It was Town’s only pre-season friendly, and despite being without nine regulars, they produced a spirited and encouraging display which gives them a solid base on which to build their fresh Championship challenge.

There were those among the travelling 60 or so Workington fans who must have feared the worst when the Vikings went 16-0 ahead inside 15 minutes. It had the makings of a depressing and damaging work-out.

But Town – who had conditioner Matthew Johnson on the wing, and included two Cumberland ARL players in Adam Ramsden (Distington) and Greg Rowley (Glasson) – dug deep to prevent their hosts scoring again before the break.

Then for the third quarter of the game Town were definitely the better team and it was during that impressive spell when they delighted the travelling fans by scoring a richly deserved try.

Widnes did finish strongly but Workington’s fitness held-up well, which was also a credit to conditioner/winger Johnson who appears to have got the squad in top shape.

Although essentially a battling team performance from the west Cumbrians there has to be special mention for two players at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Ewan Dowes has been Town’s big-name close-season signing and his experience and tactical nous are clearly going to be invaluable in the months ahead, as his hard work and organisational ability shone through during his stints on the pitch.

On the other hand Callum Phillips was playing his first game as a professional and he shone as bright as a button, busy and inventive, sharp and decisive, so whether he operates at scrum-half or hooker he’s going to be a box of tricks in the Championship.

Widnes, who had already had the benefit of a Boxing Day outing against neighbours Warrington, were very sharp into their stride and had a try disallowed virtually in their first attack but Jon Clarke was over on his back.

However, the opening try wasn’t long delayed for after three minutes Danny Craven jinked his way over and added the conversion.

Town were soon on the back foot again and on seven minutes it was Craven again involved, sliding through to link with Matt Sarsfield to put Chris Dean in for an unconverted try.

In total Widnes got over the line three times only to be denied a try in the first-half, but they did register again on 15 minutes when Dave Allen put Joe Mellor in for a try which Craven converted.

Town’s over-worked defence continued to tackle with great determination, so much so that Widnes did not score again before the break.

In that time Carl Forber slipped a lovely pass for James Robinson to burst through, only to be stopped virtually on the line.

Then the visitors should have scored right on the interval when Kris Coward was plunging for the line under the Widnes posts when he lost control of the ball.

Coward, another Workington player who could look back on a very solid display, started the move which brought Town’s try on 47 minutes. He put in a storming break which was continued by Calum Phillips until he was pulled down ten yards short. Town kept the momentum going and when the ball was slipped left Jack Gaskell cleverly stepped back inside, found a gap and raced through to dive over. Forber added the conversion.

It was a good spell for Town, warmly appreciated by their supporters, but unfortunately the rest of the points in the game were scored by the Vikings.

On 55 minutes Eamon O’Carroll barged over under the posts and Craven added the extras.

Then on 62 minutes Town just ran out of defenders on the Widnes left as quick hands put in Willie Isa for a simple touchdown.

Six minutes later in an almost identical move which opened-up Town again Isa could have touched down again but instead slipped a final pass to young Declan Hulme who scored the final try.

Workington Town: Carter, Olstrum, Mossop, Ramsden, Johnson, Forber, Rowley, Dowes, C. Phillips, Walne, B. Phillips, Shackley, Robinson. Subs (all used) Patrick, Calderwood, Coward, Gaskell.

Referee: Gareth Hewer, Whitehaven

Crowd: 833

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