Death, taxes, long-distance relationships ending in tears… Some things in life are just guaranteed. None more so than the fact that no matter how utterly wank Widnes look for the weeks leading up to derby day, whenever Warrington roll into town, they suddenly turn into world beaters.
The Chemics looked worse than abject when they rolled over and let Salford bum them on Sky last week, but when the teams returned to the AstroTurf after the momentary halting of the game by referee Keith Lard, there was only really one team in the contest.
It’s the first time we’ve lost three in a row in the Tony Smith era – enough for some absolute fucking helmets on social media to call for the coach’s head – and the defensive frailties were exposed in the same manner they were against Saints a fortnight ago. The fact that we actually scored more against the reigning Super League champions than we did against the Chemical Brothers further highlights just how much the fuckers lift for their cup final.
Our ever-hospitable neighbours welcomed back Kevin Brown for this fixture and, typically, he was announced as the sponsors’ man of the match. The giraffe-necked Stand Off ran the show behind a dominant pack and capped his comeback with a try late on. The bastard.
It all looked so good when Westwood crashed over after Widnes failed to deal with an O’Brien bomb. In typical Warrington style, though, even celebrating a try is an event we can balls up. A smoke bomb was let off, momentarily enhancing the atmosphere. However, when the fucker was thrown towards the back of our stand and caused significant damage to the favourite shirt of your much-loved editor, it stopped being funny and just became a nuisance.
Much has been said about the lad who threw the smoke bomb onto the pitch, but in fairness to him, he was instructed to do so by almost everyone around him and his quick thinking was probably the most sensible thing anyone in our end did all night. The pitch, albeit plastic as it is, is easily the safest place for such a thing in that situation and the stewards will have had enough training to know how to dispose of a smoke bomb as opposed to standing around covering your mouth, leaving it to burn people’s trainers and shirts.
Robert Hicks decided to remove the players from the pitch while the ‘incident’ was dealt with – to their credit, the Widnes stewards handled the situation a lot better than our stewards did a similar situation at the HJ a couple of years ago, when their policy was simply to march up the West Stand and knock fuck out of the young lad who set off the smoke bomb.
When the sides eventually returned to the all-weather pitch, it didn’t take the 1989 World Club Champions long to level the scores, with Cameron Phelps the beneficiary of our soft edge defence to score down the left-wing.
Just minutes later, Stefan Marsh touched down to give the smellies a lead they never looked back from. Rhys Hanbury’s initial break from deep set up great field position and Brown’s kick to the right wing was gleefully collected by Marsh for an easy try.
To make things even better, Matty Russell hobbled off injured after the try and forced Wire into a reshuffle of the left edge.
Widnes went into half-time with a 14-6 lead after Marsh’s second try. The former Wigan centre collected Mellor’s final pass of a tidy backline spread and strolled home.
After the break, it didn’t take the Chemics too long to get the scoreboard ticking over again with a soft try to concede. After being ripped apart down our right edge again, we scrambled to keep them out, but it just delayed the inevitable as Lloyd White wriggled over from dummy half. Lloyd fucking White.
Again, Wire’s defence was continuously getting sucked in to the middle of the pitch and both wingers were attracted in field to shut down the attack, leaving their flanks exposed and gifting their opposite numbers acres of space to exploit in their absence.
As one astute observer commented, Westwood’s sin binning was purely incidental as Widnes looked like they had an extra man all game every time they shifted the ball wide.
Kevin Brown actually took advantage of Westwood’s absence in the defensive line, though, as he opted to run through the middle of the defence rather than expose the frailties out wide, showing a dummy on the inside and strolling through to really rub salt into the wounds of the travelling support packed into the East Stand.
Danny Tickle joined Westwood in the Sin Bin for a vicious assault on Daryl Clark and makeshift centre Ben Currie scored a consolation try before Widnes had the final say, typically, down our right, when Jack Owens collected Brown’s cut out pass to squeeze in for their sixth try in the corner.
Those of us who actually stayed to applaud the players off were denied the opportunity by the overzealous Buster Blood vessel lookalike head steward, who, like a strict head master, ruled that our behaviour didn’t wasn’t good enough to be rewarded by the players coming any closer to us than the try line to reciprocate the gesture.
The players themselves took their time in coming over to the fans, having spent a good few minutes in a huddle near the half way line after the hooter. If you’re looking for a positive – and they are very scarce after a performance like that, of course – it is that the players actually looked arsed that they had displayed so poorly and no doubt the leaders amongst the squad were vocal in the huddle. No bollockings need to be given, just an acceptance that the current level of performance isn’t good enough for a squad of this calibre and it needs to improve.
Nobody will be more aware of that than the players and Tony Smith. Being disgruntled at three successive defeats is a sign of how far we have come. A sense of perspective is required, not knee-jerk outbursts about getting shut of the most successful coach we’ve ever had because of a slight blimp in a long season.
As an aside, a crowd of 7,760 – including at least 3,000 away fans – in your biggest fixture of the season, against your local rivals, is absolute poverty. Massive club, my arse.