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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Haven fall victim to clinical Widnes

get off: John Duffy hands off former Haven forward Ryan Tandy as he is wrapped upPictures: Mike McKenzie

By Martin Morgan

WHITEHAVEN were left to rue their lengthy injury list as they fell victim to a clinical Widnes effort.

Without six or seven strong candidates for inclusion in what would be a full-strength Haven side, fans were left wondering what might have been.

Despite fine efforts from Neil Baynes and Chris McKinney, with Steve Trindall getting through a ton of work in defence, Haven were out-gunned up front.

How the home side’s fans must have longed, in particular, for the return of props David Fatialofa and Marc Jackson, who would have relished facing the Vikings’ ex-GB duo Barrie McDermott and Terry O’Connor.

The former top-class pair may be playing it for laughs as guest reporters on Sky TV’s Boots ’n’ All, but they were deadly serious at the Recre on Sunday.

And with scrum-half Ian Watson, on debut in his second spell at the club, allowed plenty of time to kick out of hand, Haven were struggling.

After the match, Widnes boss Steve McCormack, the ex-Haven coach, said: “It is a cracking win for us. Not many teams beat Whitehaven on their own ground. They are a cracking club and a good side, and for our players to come up here and win by that score, took a big effort from them.

“Watching the tapes of Whitehaven, they start really start well, and to be fair they did that today.

“We wanted to get in to the arm wrestle right away. They are capable of scoring from all over the field with the players they’ve got.

“Defensively we had a couple of first-half frights but we certainly defended their threats very well.

“We tended to target Craig Calvert with kicks, to make him not as fresh, because he’s a threat for them. Watto kept putting the ball down to that zone, and our defence held strong.”

A crowd of over 3,000 produced a cracking atmosphere at the Recreation Ground, and the opening exchanges gave no hint of what was to follow.

Haven spurned a great chance on their first set, after an offload from Baynes. John Duffy’s bomb was dropped and winger Calvert looked set to score before the cover closed. His inside pass went to ground and the chance was gone.

The hosts broke through again moments later, after McKinney spread the ball to the right side for Howard Hill to cut loose.

Rob Jackson went close before ref Peter Taberner blew up for interference.

Vikings full-back Gavin Dodd was sin-binned and Carl Rudd slotted the resulting penalty.

The visitors, who were without the injured David Peachey and Daryl Cardiss, were on level terms six minutes later, ex-Haven centre Mick Nanyn slotting a penalty after a high tackle.

The big Haven crowd were silenced three minutes later, when young winger Paul O’Connor touched down a kick a fraction before it rolled dead, with Haven’s defence nowhere in sight.

Experienced Welsh international scrum-half Watson gave Widnes the on-field leadership they have often lacked this season, and he became increasingly influential during the first-half.

But it was half-back partner James Coyle’s 40/20 kick that handed Widnes the field position to score their next try on 21 minutes.

A quick play-the-ball saw hooker Mark Smith nip over from dummy-half, with Haven’s markers again AWOL.

Nanyn’s third goal kick of his seven on the day, to make the score 14-2, saw Haven sub Carl Sice enter the fray.

McCormack, Sice’s boss for three years at the Recre, could be heard from the sidelines, warning his players to beware of the hooker.

Sice was soon in the thick of the action, just failing to get his hand to Leroy Joe’s dangerous cross-field kick over the try line, ahead of a Widnes defender.

A bleak situation got worse for Haven on 31 minutes, when Paul O’Connor broke down the left and fed Nanyn for a try.

Haven’s hard-working forwards looked tired as they trooped off at the interval.

But the pack started the second-half brightly, Sice breaking through after good work from Baynes.

The set ended weakly however when Derry Eilbeck’s chip was taken easily by a defender.

Haven finally broke through on 49 minutes, following a forward pass from Widnes 10 metres from their line.

From the resulting scrum, Eilbeck raced across the field, creating panic in the Widnes defence, and Calvert squeezed in at the corner.

The excellent Gary Broadbent broke through directly from the re-start, and a Baynes offload on the Vikings’ line saw Duffy cross.

Rudd’s conversion saw the hosts reduce the deficit to eight points. But they lost their momentum five minutes later when a mix-up in possession gifted Widnes possession deep in Haven territory.

Young centre Adam Bowman took advantage to score.

Still there was hope for Haven, defending an unbeaten league record at home stretching back to August 2003, particularly when Terry O’Connor knocked on the re-start kick.

Hard-working Leroy Joe looked set to score after breaking from dummy-half, but he lost the ball on the Widnes line under heavy pressure.

Haven then had to soak up heavy pressure, Nanyn crossing on the Vikings’ third successive set.

Joe scored a well-deserved try on 71 minutes, dummying through with the defence expecting a pass to Duffy.

Nanyn had the final say, proving as unstoppable as ever from 10 metres, to complete his hat-trick in the closing seconds.

Haven: Broadbent, Calvert, Seeds, R Jackson, Eilbeck, Rudd, Joe, Baynes, Duffy, McKinney, Wright, Hill, Trindall. Subs: Sice, Farmer, Walsh, Chambers.

Tries: Calvert, Duffy, Joe.

Goals: Rudd 2.

Widnes: Dodd, Kirkpatrick, Bowman, Nanyn, P O’Connor, Coyle, Watson, T O’Connor, Smith, McDermott, Tandy, Allen, Beswick. Subs: Summers, Heaton, Cassidy, Crook.

Tries: P O’Connor, Smith, Nanyn 3, Bowman.

Goals: Nanyn 7.

Referee: Peter Taberner (Wigan).

Attendance: 3,048.

Star Man: Neil Baynes.

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