Vikings state case for promotion

Widnes 24 Oldham 14
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The Independent Online

Widnes, the club best equipped to adapt to life in Super League, won the Northern Ford Premiership Grand Final and with it the chance to step up into the elite.

Although sometimes short of their best, the Vikings were always a little too good for Oldham, with the incisiveness of Phil Cantillon at dummy half and the organisation that Neil Kelly has brought to the club the chief factors.

The question now is whether Kelly, who has been courted strongly by Warrington for their vacant coaching job, will be with Widnes next season. "I certainly hope so,'' he said.

"There's been a lot of speculation this week, which has come at a poor time for us, but my intention is to coach Widnes in Super League.

'"Whether we get that chance is up to someone else now ... but it won't take away from our enjoyment tonight,'' said Kelly, who was denied promotion with Dewsbury when they won the final last season.

In an intense atmosphere at a packed Spotland nerves were always to the fore, with Oldham particularly slow to settle and they went behind to a Craig Weston penalty.

Against the run of play, the Roughyeds took the lead when David Gibbons launched a high kick that got away from Chris Percival and Keith Brennan pounced.

Widnes looked far better with the ball in their hands, but wasted promising positions before Tommy Hodgkinson and Simon Knox gave Steve Gee the chance to drive over the line.

They would have been further ahead if they could have capitalised on a Cantillon break through the middle.

Widnes were however having problems coping with high kicks and they were further troubled when the Oldham player-coach Mike Ford brought himself off the bench.

Pat Rich should have landed a penalty after Martin Crompton was caught offside. Oldham could still have been ahead by half-time after a clever kick by Ford but Joe McNicholas knocked on with the line open.

Widnes went straight to the other end and Cantillon and Richard Agar handled crisply to send Jason Demetriou over for a six-point half-time lead.

The second half was all Widnes, from the moment Cantillon lunged over the line for his 48th try of the season. Cantillon is one player who can confidently make the step up to Super League.

Ten minutes later, Demetriou claimed his second try after Oldham had been forced to hack his original kick into touch. From the scrum, the ball went along the line and there was the Australian centre to make the final safe.

A messy try by Damien Munro, when Aitchison's pass had been deflected off an Oldham body, was allowed after a long video scrutiny.

Two late tries from Oldham, one scored by Ford and one made by him by Kevin Mannion, provided the postscript to his career, although he would no doubt have preferred to mark his retirement with a win.

''I'm pretty gutted,'' he said. "We never really gave ourselves a chance to win it.''

Widnes: Aitcheson, Munro, Weston, Demetriou, Percival, Agar, Crompton, Knox, Cantillon, Holgate, Gee, Richardson, Hodgkinson. Subs: Craig, McKinney, Faimalo, Long.

Oldham: Sibson, Hayes, A Gibbons, Rich, McNicholas, D Gibbons, Roden, Casey, Brennan, Norton, Farrell, Henare, Mannion. Subs: Ford, Clegg, Hough, Guest.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens)