It was third against fourth as two of the three unbeaten sides in the 2022 Betfred Championship met at the Halton Stadium, with the Widnes Vikings taking on the Barrow Raiders for the crucial two points on offer. A Widnes win would see them at the top of the pile and while Barrow knew that although they needed to score at least thirty-four points more than Widnes to change their league position, any victory would lift them level of points with Widnes and Leigh.
It was the final game of round five and played out in front of the Premier Sports cameras.
Our pre-match Twitter poll suggested that 82% expected a win for the home side and the bookies agreed in giving the Barrow Raiders side a twelve-point start on the handicap coupon.
Within two minutes the Vikings were in for the games opening try with Joe Lyons breaking the defence and putting Sam Wilde over ten from the left upright. Steve Tyrer added the conversion for the best possible start for the home side.
Good defence from Barrow prevented Lloyd Roby from scoring but on the next set Widnes showeds fast hands from right to left to put Tyrer thorough a gap to score. The Vikings centre added the conversion for 12-0 with just under ten minutes on the clock.
After being second best in the opening ten minutes Barrow steadied the ship and put in a great attacking stint, going close on a couple of occasions before Jarrod Sammut broke through the Widnes line after taking the ball at first receiver from the back of the scrum to dot down under the sticks. Ryan Shaw added the extras to put the Raiders right back in to game.
Hopkins was held up over the line on twenty-eight and on the next play Hakim Miloudi twisted and turned, mesmerising the Vikings defence, before finding Tee Ritson in space down the right to score one-handed while leaping for the corner flag. Shaw was unable to add the conversion from the touchline, Barrow now just two points behind and having the better of position and possession.
Great hands from Widnes saw them get their third of the night with four remaining in the half when Roby took a Wilde pass, a metre from the line, to juggle the ball and force it to the ground. Tyrer added the conversion for an eight-point lead but as the half time hooter warmed up Miloudi was again the provider as he danced through the defence to create the space for Ritson to go in for his second try from just two metres out. Shaw added the touchline conversion, and the sides went into the sheds for a well-earned break separated by just two points.
The Raiders hit the front for the first time on forty-two with Miloudi the scorer after he took a Sammut miss-out pass five from the line to step past the defence and ground one-handed after throwing a dummy. Shaw put his conversion kick just short of the cross bar.
Shaw doubled the Raiders lead on forty-seven with a penalty goal for 22-18.
Widnes had a Fleming try ruled out on fifty after the Barrow defender was deemed tackled in the air, the home crowd baying for blood.
On fifty-three Ritson was taken out when chasing a kick and Tyrer saw yellow, sitting out the next ten minutes with Widnes down to twelve men. Barrow failed to find touch and the Vikings went on the attack but the Raiders defence held firm.
The scruffiest of tries was given by the referee on sixty-two when Luke Cresswell was on hand to take a Jake Carter offload and push off two defenders in a move which had covered fifty metres downfield. Shaw was unable to add the conversion as Tyrer returned to the field after his enforced ten minute rest.
A set restart on the last tackle put Barrow on the attack again and after conceding a penalty for a tackle without the ball, Barrow kicked the penalty goal for 28-18.
Carl Forster spun out of a tackle and barged his way over the line on seventy-two to seal a famous win for the Raiders, against the odds, and stun the home support. Carter added the conversion for a sixteen-point lead.
Matty Fozard managed to get over under the sticks after backing up Roby well and when Tyrer added the conversion the margin was still ten points and it was mere consolation. Barrow taking the win and the points by 34-24.
Premier Sports won´t be able to believe their luck as they again picked a superb game between two competitive sides with plenty of great tries and lots of incidents to keep the fans talking. Few gave Barrow a chance coming into tonight’s game, but they are a side who don´t know how to take a backward step. They suffered an early setback in going twelve behind but once they found their feet they were devastating. Perhaps this Barrow Raiders side are the real deal, Widnes certainly won´t underestimate them again this season.
Widnes Vikings: Roby (T), Ince, Fleming, Tyrer (T, 4G, SB on 53), Holroyd, Lyons, Smith, Dupree, Fozard (T), Grady, Wilde (T), Davies, Brown. Subs: Doro, Gregory, Tilleke, Lawton.
Barrow Raiders: Cresswell (T), Ritson (2T), Miloudi (T), Shaw (4G), Toal S, Carter (G), Sammut (T), Forster (T), Wood, Gillam, Hopkins, Stack, Iaria. Subs: Wells, Mossop, Toal D, Johnson.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-4, 12-6, 12-10, 16-10, 18-10 18-14, 18-16 : HT : 18-20, 18-22, 18-26, 18-28, 18-32, 18-34, 22-34, 24-34 : FT .
Referee: Cameron Worsley.