Hull Kingston Rovers moved to within 80 minutes of a first-ever place in Super League after a nail-biting victory over Widnes before a near-7,000 crowd at Craven Park yesterday.
Justin Morgan's side, who created such a good impression in reaching the semi-final of the Challenge Cup earlier this year, remain firm favourites to replace Castleford in the top flight, but Widnes cannot be discounted just yet.
"We played a quality Widnes side today and withstood a lot of pressure in the second half," Morgan said. "It was a good team effort and what we did in the first half set up the victory. There was an unbelievable atmosphere and it was great to go through the season with an undefeated home record."
Widnes, who were relegated from Super League in 2005, must now beat Whitehaven at the Halton Stadium next Sunday to qualify for the grand final at Warrington.
The Vikings get a second chance after this defeat by virtue of finishing in the top two places in the league. "We can take a lot from the game and will stay positive," said Steve McCormack, the Widnes coach.
Though Rovers scored the opening try, Makali Aizue ploughing over from James Webster's clever pass, Widnes looked the more cohesive side as they established a surprise 12-6 lead with their former Wigan half-back, Dennis Moran, the key figure.
Moran, one of 11 former Wigan players in the Vikings' ranks, created an opening for Damien Blanch with an astute chip before his bullet pass enabled Daryl Cardiss to cross out wide.
Rovers tied the scores when Gareth Morton's pass ushered Jon Steel over in the corner and then took a firm hold on the game with two further tries in four minutes before the half-time interval.
When the Widnes full-back, Gavin Dodd, was unable to gather Scott Murrell's steepling kick his opposite number, Ben Cockayne, pounced to punish the error. Ben Fisher then stretched over from dummy-half after Murrell's kick had forced a goal-line drop-out.
The accurate left boot of Morton punished Widnes' indiscipline with two penalties to stretch Rovers' lead to 28-12 before Widnes fought back, despite losing Mick Nanyn and Oliver Wilkes to injuries. Aaron Summers went over from James Coyle's pass and when Mark Smith crossed for another try 11 minutes from time Rovers were hanging on.
The home fans could only relax when Murrell sealed victory with a last-minute drop-goal.
Hull Kingston Rovers: Cockayne; Steel, Morton, Goddard, Ford; Murrell, Webster; Aizue, Fisher, Tangata-Toa, Morrison, Smith, Gallagher. Substitutes used: Weisner, Netherton, Wilson, Barker.
Widnes: Dodd; Blanch, Gleeson, Nanyn, Cardiss; Moran, Watson; Tandy, Smith, McDermott, Cassidy, Wilkes, Beswick. Substitutes used: Summers, Allen, Coyle, James.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).Reuse content