WidnesVikings 22 Wigan Warriors 22 (Half-time 6-16)

The anticipation for the new Super League season has beenbuilding for weeks in Rugby league circles, with many predicting an unusually opencampaign due to the strengthening of several of the so-called weaker sides inthe top league. It was still a major surprise though for last year’s GrandFinal runners-up, the Wigan Warriors to almost come unstuck against WidnesVikings last night in the league opener, as they clung on to an unlikely drawat the end of the match.

For Widnes it was an encouraging opening to their season,especially after they lost Patrick Ah Van to a red card midway through thefirst-half, when his swinging right arm caught English international wingerJosh Charnley.

They had already conceded two tries by that point. Wigan knowonly too well how being down to twelve men can impact on your chances ofvictory, after their similar experience in last year’s Grand Final, where St Helenstook advantage to take the title. So there would have been few among the 9,286 crowdat the Select Security Stadium last night, who could have predicted that theVikings would stage such a memorable comeback, especially after trailing 16-0and then 22-12 to a powerful Warriors’ side. They were indebted to tries in thefinal stages from Cameron Phelps and Chris Dean for the unexpected recovery.

Wigan had started the brighter and looked to have movedinto a commanding position, when they led 16-0 thanks to tries from JoelTomkins and a brace from Anthony Gelling.

Widnes also lost their playmaker andcaptain Kevin Brown after just 22 minutes (due to concussion), as the gamelooked to be getting away from them. Yet rugby league is notorious for teamsbeing able to score points quickly and they had reduced the deficit by theinterval to ten points, after Joe Mellor went over for a try of their own.

The home side were right back in the match shortly into thesecond period, when Rhys Hanbury ran on to a neat grubber kick to go over, butlooked to have too much to do when Wigan’s Joe Burgess restored their advantagewith a further try. Cue the dramatic finale, as first Phelps and then Deancapped a remarkable fight back for the Vikings.

Afterwards, the visitors’ coach Shaun Wane was brutallyhonest about the result, stating that it felt like a loss rather than a pointgained, as they basically lost their grip on the game to throw away what shouldhave been an uplifting first-day success. He told BBC Radio Manchester: “Theway we gave the game up to Widnes and we didn’t finish our try-scoring opportunitiesis disappointing – we need to be better at that.”

Widnes benefited from their biggest crowd in ten years, whowere no doubt buoyed by their side’s resilience and spirit throughout thematch.

The Super Leagueopening round of fixtures continues tonight, with Grand Final winners St Helensentertaining the Catalan Dragons.