Widnes, the Cup kings of the 1970s and early 1980s had their noses in front when Gavin Dodd was penalised for offside going for what could have been a spectacular long-range interception. Halifax ran the ball rather than kicking the simple goal and Roberts forced his way over for a vital try which Mike Govin converted.
Both these sides sensed beforehand there was an opening in this competition but it was first blood to Widnes, with an offside penalty in front of the posts. But Halifax, who last won the trophy in 1987, soon retaliated with the game's first try.
Bob Beswick's low, skidding kick got away from Loz Wildbore's grasp and from the resulting scrum, Ben Black found a hole in the Widnes defence that simply should not have been there. Black probed and plotted for further openings, but Halifax could not turn their pressure into further points. Just before half-time they were hit hard on the counter-attack.
Anthony Thackeray sold a dummy that almost took him over the try-line. Widnes kept the ball alive and Sam Thompson, just on the field as a substitute, found his way in for the try.
It could have been much worse for Halifax, whose suddenly porous defence opened up for Paddy Flynn, only for Wildbore's touch-down to be disallowed for a forward pass.
The second was a more free-flowing, not to say see-sawing affair. Govin put Halifax level with a penalty, only for Thackeray's try to retore the visitors' lead. Dwayne Barker's break and well-timed pass then set up Shad Royston's try to level the score, before Dodd's penalty edged Widnes ahead once more.
Dodd had a chance to win it with a kick ahead after Roberts' try, but Rob Worroncy got back to rescue the situation. It was not quite Wembley, but it was tense enough for a Friday night at The Shay.
Widnes coach Paul Cullen said his side had been "one play short''. There was no doubting the bravery of his side, which spent much of the game defending, but Halifax, who also won the league match between the clubs a fortnight ago, were always slicker in possession.
Halifax: Royston; Greenwood, Patterson, Haley, Worrincy; Beswick, Black; Cherryholme, Govin, Wrench, Larder, Roberts, P Smith. Substitutes used: Penkywicz, Barker, Watene, Wilson.
Widnes: Wildbore; Flynn, Varkulis, Grady, Gaskell; Thackeray, Webster; Ostick, M Smith, Gannon, Doran, Fletcher, Duffy. Substitutes used: Dodd, Kavanagh, Simm, Thompson.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).Reuse content