Widnes 36 Halifax 24: Smith steers Widnes past spirited Halifax challenge

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The vacant place at the Super League table will be filled in the way that always seemed predestined, by a showdown between Widnes and Castleford in the National League One Grand Final a week on Sunday.

Two tries in four minutes from the Widnes captain, Mark Smith, both the product of exemplary support play, ensured that his side took their second chance of getting to Headingley, for all Halifax's brave efforts to rewrite the script.

"It was a bit patchy towards the end, but over the majority of the game we were in control," Smith said.

Halifax gave as good as they got in the first quarter, scoring the first try through Mark Roberts, counterbalanced by two goals from Mick Nanyn.

But Widnes had an extra touch of quality that shone through when they opened up the Halifax defence and Nanyn turned the ball inside for Paul Noone to score. Nanyn landed the goal and a penalty when Scott Grix's decisive break produced an offside decision.

Five minutes into the second half, with Halifax pressing, Dennis Moran intercepted from Graham Holroyd and the alert backing up of Smith completed an 80-metre breakaway try.

Four minutes later, it was the impressive Grix who did the initial damage and the Widnes captain was there again to finish the job. It did not quite finish Halifax, who got one back through Shad Royston before Grix's fast footwork brought him a deserved try.

The Yorkshire side's defiance continued with late tries from Frank Watene, Richard Varkulis and Sean Hoare, but Smith saw to it that there would be no late upset by setting one up for Bob Beswick to keep Widnes's noses in front.

Widnes: Grix; Blanch, Kohe-Love, Nanyn, Dodd; Moran, Penny; Cassidy, M Smith, Wilkes, Tomkins, Noone, Beswick. Substitutes used: Webster, James, Sidlow, Doran.

Halifax: Royston; Gibson, Roberts, Varkulis, Greenwood; Holroyd, Watson; Southern, Penkywicz, Wrench, Larder, P Smith, Joseph. Substitutes used: Hoare, Ball, Trinder, Watene.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).