O'Neill leads Widnes to precious win

Widnes 31 Warrington 10
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The Independent Online

Widnes bounced back from the blackest day in the club's history to beat their neighbours with something to spare yesterday. Berated by their coach for defrauding their fans in letting in a record 70 points at Hull last Monday, the Vikings ended the week with a rapturous reception from the same supporters.

Widnes bounced back from the blackest day in the club's history to beat their neighbours with something to spare yesterday. Berated by their coach for defrauding their fans in letting in a record 70 points at Hull last Monday, the Vikings ended the week with a rapturous reception from the same supporters.

"Everybody was waiting to see what the response would be," said their coach, Neil Kelly. "We did a lot of work on defence and they showed that they can tackle, so the response was fantastic today.'' From the start, Widnes showed more energy and enthusiasm that they had in the debacle at Hull - not that it was difficult to improve on that.

Although they fell behind to Lee Briers's 10th-minute penalty, it was Widnes who claimed the first try, even if it was with help from Briers. The Warrington captain's speculative pass was picked off by Adam Hughes, who ran half the length of the field for a try which Jules O'Neill converted.

The home side had other chances, notably when Stephen Myler intercepted from Chris Leikvoll, but lacked the pace to make Warrington pay. Another Briers penalty brought the scores closer before he made up for his previous indiscretion by accelerating through a flat-footed Widnes defence and picking out Mark Gleeson in support. Mike Forshaw finished the job. Briers added the conversion, but Widnes continued to show the competitive spirit lacking at Hull, Aaron Moule's break putting them in an attacking position and O'Neill's second goal reducing the half-time margin to two points.

The second half belonged entirely to Widnes, who scored 23 unanswered points. The first of them came four minutes after the break when, with Ian Sibbit having treatment, Widnes exploited the gap on the wing to send Nicky Royle over. Shane Millard, whose inclusion at hooker had made such a difference to the side, then drove over the line from dummy-half.

Warrington could now see the game slipping away, especially when O'Neill's 40-20 kick gave him the opportunity to put over a hotly disputed drop goal. As the visitors became desperate, Myler's pass sent Andy Hay over and, in the last minute, Hughes took a pass from Deon Bird for his second try to complete a scoreline that now looked comfortable.

Form and appetite seem to be wildly variable commodities in the South Lancashire borderlands at the moment, and yesterday it was Warrington's turn to be tongue-lashed by their coach. "The lack of ambition of some of our senior players is setting alarm bells ringing throughout the club,'' said Paul Cullen.

"A number of our players are entitled to feel thoroughly ashamed at the way they performed today.'' Mind you, they will probably be world-beaters next week.

* Bradford are favourites to sign Iestyn Harris, who has told the Welsh Rugby Union that he wants to return to rugby league.

Widnes: Bird; Royle, Moule, Hughes, Giles; Jules O'Neill, Myler; Relf, Millard, Julian O'Neill, Hay, Wozniak, Finnigan. Substitutes used: Mills, Rowlands, McCurrie, Frame.

Warrington: Cardiss; Gaskell, Westwood, Grose, Appo; Briers, N Wood; P Wood, Clarke, Hilton, Moone, Wainwright, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Gleeson, Lima, Leikvoll, Sibbit.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).

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