Super League: Widnes Vikings see off Salford Red Devils to stay perfect
By Rob Lancaster. Last Updated: 07/03/14 10:25am
Widnes maintained their perfect start to the Super League season with a 32-18 triumph over big-spending Salford Red Devils at the Select Security Stadium.
A hat-trick of home triumphs in 2014 means the Vikings have now won six league outings in a row stretching back to the end of last year, showing their long-term planning is beginning to bear fruit.
Salford are trying to do things a little quicker thanks to Dr Marwan Koukash's millions, but with injuries taking their toll they were beaten in front of the Sky cameras for a second successive Thursday.
Kevin Brown marked his return from injury with two tries as Widnes - who still have a game in hand due to Wigan's World Club Challenge commitments - turned around a 12-8 half-time deficit that was hardly a fair reflection on the first 40 minutes.
They nearly scored on their opening set but had to wait until the 14th minute to break the deadlock, Chris Dean scoring during a third successive set.
Salford didn't lack for effort, Harrison Hansen producing one huge hit in a tackle, but struggled to break down a stubborn home defence without the sidelined Rangi Chase. That was, though, until they crossed twice in two minutes.
They needed something special to breach Widnes and that's exactly what they got when Greg Johnson manufactured a superb solo score, the winger somehow wriggling free from three tacklers inside his own half before cutting off his right foot to round the stranded Rhys Hanbury.
The Vikings barely had time to recover when they conceded again, Tim Smith's grubber setting free Jason Walton, who threw the ball inside for Jake Mullaney. The full-back drew his opposite number in Hanbury and then passed on for the supporting Tommy Lee to touch down.
Mullaney added both conversions to make it 12-6, though a Danny Tickle penalty, awarded perhaps generously for obstruction, with the final play in the half cut the gap to four.
The scoring continued to alternate in the third quarter, Salford surrendering the lead when Joe Mellor made them pay for allowing fellow half-back Brown's high kick to bounce.
However the Red Devils recovered to go 18-14 ahead when Mullaney stepped off his left foot on three occasions to cut loose and set up a try for Chase's understudy in the halves, French teenager Theo Fages.
That, though, was the last time Brian Noble's side - also without the services of Gareth Hock - would have their noses in front.
Hanbury reached out to score from dummy-half next to the line to see the lead change hands for a fourth, and now final, time, before Brown's brace made sure his side would stay perfect.
The former Huddersfield Giant worked a give-and-go to perfection with Macgraff Leuluai to make it a two-score cushion, then took a short pass to crash over on the left-hand side. Tickle finished with a perfect record off the tee, kicking all six of his conversion attempts to add to first-half penalty.