Rugby: Widnes sweep to victory in an end-to-end affair

Dave Hadfield watches the Chemics rise from the rubble of their `new' home
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The Independent Online
It was not much like Wembley. In fact, it did not look much like Naughton Park but Widnes, whose name remains synonymous with the Challenge Cup, safely started their campaign on the building site that now doubles as their home ground.

The Chemics, Wembley finalists in 1993, were far too strong and knowing for Clayton, the amateur club from the outskirts of Bradford, winning by 56-2. But the impression was that there were as many there to see what it would be like watching a game on a ground with two ends and no middle as to mark the formality of a Widnes victory.

Naughton Park was never one of the game's more impressive grounds and the new, council-financed stadium that will eventually rise on the same site will no doubt be a great improvement. But at the moment, with both of their old stands flattened, and spectators confined to the two terraces behind the sticks, rugby league at Widnes is rather a disjointed experience. All in all, it seemed superfluous to announce that fans must not change ends at half-time; they would have needed all-terrain vehicles to do so.

Any chance that the inauguration of Widnes's non-stadium might be marked by an embarrassment at the hands of the amateurs was effectively wiped out in the first 18 minutes, when the Widnes stand-off and captain, Phil Waring, went in for three tries.

The rest of the match was notable for a matching hat-trick from their hooker, Jim Cassidy, and the return after serving a two-year ban for steroid abuse of Jamie Bloem, who scored a try of his own near the end.

Waring's combination with one of Widnes's new Kiwis, Ben Lythe, was one of the more hopeful signs for the season ahead. Clayton meanwhile got their meagre reward when their centre, Chris Parr, kicked their only points 15 minutes from time.

Widnes were less concerned about grand designs for their stadium than with ensuring that everyone had a cup of tea. But that was always the attractive thing about Widnes, of whom it can now literally be said that they are a club without any side.

Dudley Hill from Bradford continued Second Division York's Challenge Cup misery by pulling off the one upset of the day, winning 21-14. York were beaten by amateurs West Hull last year. Oulton took Doncaster desperately close before going down 15-14, while Siddal lost only 16-8 at Barrow. Leigh won at a canter by 68-10 against Wigan St Patricks, with debutant Stuart Donlan, son of Leigh's former Great Britain centre, Steve Donlan, scoring three tries.

Widnes: Broadbent; Kendrick, D Myler, Nelson, Smith; Waring, Lythe; Makin, Cassidy, Hansen, Harrison, P Myler, Cunningham. Substitutes used: Bloem, Collier, Mills, Connor.

Clayton: Calvert; Chapman, Parr, Cornforth, Brooksbank; Hellewell, S Pendlebury; Anderson, Milnes, P Stephenson, Todd, A Stephenson, Flanigan. Substitutes used: Sykes, B Pendlebury, Horn, Sheehan.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).