Michael Dobson signed off for the Catalans Dragons with a performance that underlined his rich promise as Widnes' young players were beaten but not disgraced.
The 19-year-old Canberra scrum-half flies home this week after three months filling in, with distinction, for Stacey Jones. Subject to a last X-ray on the arm he broke, Jones will return against Wakefield on Saturday. The understudy has given the little Kiwi master a tough act to follow.
"It was a great performance," said his coach, Mick Potter. "Everyone will remember him not just for his effort today, but over the last 12 weeks." Dobson kicked five goals, scored a try and set up two others at the Halton Stadium. Without him, a Widnes side missing 10 regulars would have got much closer.
The side from National League One conceded a try after 40 seconds when Paul O'Connor lost the ball and Bruno Verges got his first from Dobson's precise kick to the corner. It looked ominous, but Widnes showed their spirit when Mick Nanyn scored from James Coyle's pass.
Verges scored again for the Catalans and when Dobson followed his own kick for their third try it looked as though they might run away with it. Mark Smith then scored for Widnes, although the Dragons stretched their lead through Laurent Frayssinous before half-time.
Dobson released Mark Hughes after the break, but Widnes' combative streak was epitomised by their veteran prop, Barrie McDermott. He gave his all, coming back on after a pain-killing injection in his chest and then having a furious punch-up with Adel Fellous. Astonishingly, neither player was sent to the sin bin - though Rénaud Guigue was later on. Nanyn then got his second, although Justin Murphy had the last word for the Dragons three minutes from time.
"When you look at the team we put on the field, I'm proud of what they've done," said the Widnes coach, Steve McCormack.
Widnes: Cardiss; Woods, Bowman, Nanyn, O'Connor; Crook, Coyle; Summers, Smith, McDermott, Cassidy, Draper, Beswick. Substitutes used: Wood, Heaton, Strong, Nash.
Catalans: Guigue; Murphy, Wilson, Hughes, Verges; Frayssinous, Dobson; Fellous, Rinaldi, Guisset, Hindmarsh, Fakir, Jampy. Substitutes used: Chan, Berthezane, Casty, Rudder.
Referee: A Klein (Keighley).
* Dewsbury opened up a two-point lead at the top of National League Two yesterday after beating the previous leaders Swinton 22-18 at Sedgley Park, even though Swinton scored four tries to Dewsbury's three.Reuse content