Bird treble decisive as Widnes rediscover their spirit

Widnes 42 Huddersfield 30
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The Independent Online

A hat-trick of tries from Deon Bird and a highly influential display from Jules O'Neill ended Widnes' losing run in a spectacularly open game at the Halton Stadium yesterday.

Widnes had led for only a couple of minutes of the whole match until O'Neill, restored to his natural position of stand-off, put Adam Hughes over for the try that made it 36-30 five minutes from time.

As Huddersfield went in search of the draw they probably deserved, Bird intercepted Jarrod O'Doherty's pass to go 70 yards for his third and O'Neill landed his seventh goal from seven attempts with the last kick of the match.

"It was almost a classic with that tit for tat scoring," said the relieved Widnes coach, Neil Kelly. "We were just looking for one team to break the cycle."

A combination of enterprising attack and ramshackle defence from both sides made for an entertaining contest. Huddersfield made the early running with Julian Bailey scoring from Stanley Gene's kick within the first two minutes and Steve McNamara's two goals giving them an eight-point lead.

Paul Devlin got over the line from Daniel Frame's pass but was held up. That was only a temporary delay, because from the resulting scrum, O'Neill put Bird through a gap for a converted try.

Widnes hit the front when fluent handling took the ball to Steve McCurrie who gave Hughes a walk-in for his first.

Huddersfield struck back immediately with Marcus St Hilaire strolling in at the other end and regained the lead when Gene produced a beautifully disguised kick for Paul Reilly to celebrate his first game since breaking his leg nine months ago with a try.

Frame tied the scores once more before half-time by forcing his way over, but Brandon Costin threatened to be the match winner for the Giants after the break. He turned defence into attack with a 90-yard breakaway when Ryan Sheridan put in a kick near the Huddersfield line. Costin hacked the ball up field, re-gathered and held off the chase to score.

Andy Hay's reverse pass to Bird brought the scores level yet again, but then some of the most ingenious handling imaginable ended with Gene putting Costin over for his second.

The last 10 minutes, however, belonged to Widnes who showed a spirit that has often been missing this season. O'Neill put Sheridan over and then, after Reilly had knocked on from an ill advised pass from Darren Fleary, set up the try that put them ahead.

It left Huddersfield with nothing to show for some dazzling attacking rugby. "We scored enough points to win most rugby league games," mused their coach, Tony Smith.

Not this one, though.

Widnes: Atchison; Devlin, Bird, Hughes, Giles; Jules O'Neill, Sheridan; Relf, Millard, Farrell, Hay, McCurrie, Frame. Substitutes used: Golden, Julian O'Neill, Mills, Cantillon.

Huddersfield: Reilly; O'Hare, Bloem, Bailey, St Hilaire; Costin, McNamara; Leary, March, Gannon, O'Doherty, Crabtree, Gene. Substitutes used: Turner, Slicker, Grayshon, Morrison.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).