Rugby: Widnes sweep to victory in an end-to-end affair
Dave Hadfield watches the Chemics rise from the rubble of their `new' home
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Monday 27 January 1997
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).
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