JONTY Gorley's Whitehaven succumbed to a last-minute Harvey Wilson try to end their first pre-season fixture of 2024 in a draw in a testimonial for the Vikings stalwart Jack Owens on a cold and blustery afternoon in Cheshire. 

The game started fairly evenly with neither side looking to give away much possession and territory in the opening minutes. The first real opportunity came for Haven as Jamie Doran's kick towards the corner looked like it was heading towards Rio Corkill but was grounded by opposite centre Matty Fleming.

The opening score of the game did come for the visiting Cumbrians in the 15th minute. Corkill was close again in the left-hand side corner but was hauled down just short of the line but two plays later Italian international Jake Maizen broke through the attempted tackle to ground the ball under the sticks. Conversion duly slotted over by Jake Carter. 

Haven continued to look the better side in the first pre-season fixture compared to their opponent's second and notched a second of the afternoon in the 22nd minute with Will Evans returning to the club after he left Haven in 2023 before heading home to Australia.

He grounded the ball in the right-hand corner getting on the end of a perfectly weighted Jamie Doran grubber kick. Carter lined up a much harder conversion attempt from near the touchline but he was able to gain his composure and nail the conversion to add the extra two points.

The home side did hit back just five minutes later as Haven gave away a set restart and a penalty in quick succession. From the resulting set former Haven man Ant Walker was held up over the line but on the next play, the ball was shifted to the right with a final ball over the top which saw Mike Butt find space in the corner despite the best efforts of the recovering Oscar Doran.

Tom Gilmore couldn't add the extras from out wide. Haven looked to be in for a third before half time and Lucas Castle was judged to have incorrectly played the ball which has been a big topic in the rugby league pre-season but Haven still went into the break eight points up. 

The second half saw the home side grow more into the contest and got the first score of the second half through the experienced Matty Fozard as he seemed to have mountains of space around him following a grubber from Tom Gilmore which took a wicked bounce into the sky from the 4G surface to cross the whitewash. Kieran Dixon added the extras to reduce the deficit to only 2 points.  

Gorley's Whitehaven soon hit back though through the try of the game as Jake Carter rounded off a fantastic solo effort from Ryan King as the Australian spun out of a two-man Widnes tackle before laying a fantastic offload to Carter to touchdown.

The half-back deputising in the loose forward berth added the extras and maintained a 100% record with the boot.

Haven continued to press and before long were knocking on the door once more with Joey Romeo and Evan Lawther both falling agonisingly short of adding the scoreline in their first appearances for the club. 

The match seemed to be wrapped up just ten minutes before the end of the game as Joey Romeo crossed for Haven's fourth of the contest.

Haven shifted the ball to the right-hand edge before a final inside pass from Curtis Teare teed Romeo to cross the whitewash. Jake Carter couldn't add the extra two points on offer for the first time in the contest which would end up being pivotal. 

As did the sin-binning of Rio Corkill. The former Barrow man saw yellow for delaying the restart following Widnes defusing the ball in goal and earning a 20-metre restart.

The extra man seemed to give Widnes the impetus needed to get back into the contest as they sensed a potentially tiring defence.

Firstly Ryan Ince found space down the left-hand edge and passed the ball back inside to Tom Gilmore with the line begging but the half-back couldn't keep hold of the ball much to the relief of the defence. 

However, two tries in the final three minutes of the game saw the hosts get back into the game and snatch a draw with Gilmore redeeming himself by crossing following a scrum alongside youngster Harvey Wilson on loan from Super League champions Wigan Warriors barging over under the sticks. Gilmore added the extra two points on each occasion.