By Dave Hadfield
Warrington, the club and town for which Mike Gregory did so much during a 13-year career, rallied round him in his hour of need yesterday. More than 6,000 were at his testimonial match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, raising tens of thousands of pounds for the Mike Gregory Trust, which is supporting him in his battle against a debilitating muscular disease.
It was an emotional afternoon, with Gregory looking on from the stand and his two young sons leading the teams out as mascots. "I didn't know what to expect, but the Warrington fans have always been fantastic to me and I am overwhelmed by the numbers here,'' said Gregory, who captained Warrington and Great Britain and coached Wigan before being struck down by the illness in 2004.
There was also a parade of former Warrington players at half-time, with one of the most distinguished, Harry Bath, sending his 1948 Championship medal from Australia to raise further funds for the cause.
"The way both teams went about their business showed their respect for Mike Gregory,'' said the Warrington coach, Paul Cullen, a former team-mate.
Warrington twice took the lead in the first half,but both times Widnes pegged them back. These matches can be a good way to introduce new players and Warrington's 16-year old prop, Mike Cooper, made a fine impression.
Paul O'Connor extended Warrington's lead early in the second half, but Mark Gleeson drew Warrington level. Chris Bridge, named as man of the match by Gregory, put Warrington ahead with a dropped goal and the game appeared to be safely in the control of the Super League club when Brent Grose went over.
But Mick Nanyn crashed over for Widnes with two minutes to go and they would have repeated their Boxing Day victory over Warrington if Lee Marsh had managed the difficult conversion.
Warrington: Reardon, Fa'afili, Grose, Kohe-Love, Barnett, Briers, Bridge, Wood, Sullivan, Lima, Wainwright, Swann, Westwood. Substitutes: Gleeson, Clarke, Noone, Parker, Pickersgill, Riley, Cooper.
Widnes: Holmes, Kirkpatrick, Reid, Dodd, P O'Connor, Beswick, Hulse, T O'Connor, Smith, Summers, Heaton, Allen, Marsh. Substitutes: Crook, Johnson, Donoghue, Nanyn, Onyango.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).Reuse content