Penny's double helps Widnes cash in at Barrow's expense

Barrow Raiders 18 Widnes Vikings 34
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Widnes progressed one stop along the line that could lead back into Super League with a hard-fought victory at Blackpool in the Northern Rail Cup final. Three tries, two of them from Kevin Penny, in the minutes leading up to half-time proved critical against a Barrow side that contributed fully to a passionate contest.

The first few minutes lived up to the pre-match description as a war waiting to break out. In the first minute Brett McDermott clattered in late on Mark Smith, prompting half the Widnes side to charge in. By the fifth minute both McDermott and Jim Gannon were in the sin-bin after ripping into each other and Darren Holt had put Barrow ahead with a penalty.

When Widnes started to play rugby they did so with immediate effect, Anthony Thackeray's clever reverse pass sending Richard Fletcher on an angled run to the try-line. Barrow had plenty to offer as well, Holt's kicking put Widnes under pressure by forcing two drop-outs and the reward came when Zeb Luisi fended off two tackles and put his side back in the lead.

It was in the 10 minutes before half-time that Widnes took control. John Duffy, just on as replacement hooker, began their surge by sneaking over from dummy-half and then Penny, on loan from Warrington, showed his Super League-quality pace by racing through onto James Webster's angled kick for the first of a quick double. The second, from a forward pass by Craig Hall, should not have been allowed, but it was and, with Hall's third goal, made it a 14 point gap at the break.

Toa Kohe Love failed to touch down for a try which would have clinched it for Widnes, leaving Barrow with a chance. They seemed to have seized that when James Nixon went over, but got themselves in a tangle from Widnes' restart, allowing the Vikings to regain possession, this time Kohe Love made no mistake. They were almost home, despite Scott Kaighan's 72nd minute effort to derail them.

"It was rough and tough down the middle, but we knew it was going to be," said the Widnes coach, Paul Cullen. "Kevin Penny has great quality and a lot of guts." Barrow's Dave Clark admitted that his side had made too many mistakes: "But we still have plenty to play for this season," he said.

Barrow: Broadbent; Larkin, Bauer, Harrison, Nixon; Finch, Holt; McDermott, Ellis, Bracek, Ostler, Noone, Luisi. Subs used: Young, Butler, Mossop, Kaighan.

Widnes: Dodd; Gaskell, Kohe Love, Hall, Penny; Thackeray, Webster; Pickersgill, Smith, Gannon, Varkulis, Fletcher, Morrison. Subs used: Duffy, Doran, Hartley, Kavanagh.

Referee: G.Hewer (Whitehaven)