Widnes survive to leave Catalans Dragons’ Super League future in the balance

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Widnes secured their Super League status and condemned Catalans Dragons to a place in the dreaded Million-Pound Game with a nail-biting 12-10 victory in the south of France.

The Vikings finished bottom of Super League at the end of the regular season but rescued their top-flight status with a first victory in Perpignan in their final Super 8s Qualifiers thanks to second-half tries from Corey Thompson and Stefan Marsh.

It means the French club must play Leigh in a decider at Leigh Sports Village next Saturday as they seek to prevent a drop into the Kingstone Press Championship.

Thompson returned for the visitors alongside Aaron Heremaia, who came into the starting line-up for the injured Lloyd White.

The home side kept faith with the team which beat Hull KR, with influential forwards Remi Casty (injured) and Greg Bird (suspended) both missing.

Catalans opened the scoring in the eighth minute with Luke Walsh kicking a penalty after Chris Houston held Richie Myler down for too long.

However, the Vikings were level in the 24th minute when Tom Gilmore kicked a penalty after Catalans had obstructed Thompson.

Gilmore added another penalty five minutes later to give Widnes the lead, Jack Buchanan was held down under the Catalans posts by Benjamin Garcia and Gilmore’s successful goal put the Vikings 4-2 ahead.

Widnes suffered a blow in the 32nd minute when Houston was sin-binned for a high tackle on Thibaud Margalet and Walsh levelled the scores before the turnaround after the visitors had been penalised for holding down.

The first try of the game came in the 55th minute, Widnes sent the ball to the left, Cahill’s attempted pass was poor but bounced off the knee of Danny Craven and into the hands of Charly Runciman, who drew the cover defence and sent Thompson over for a try in the corner. Gilmore missed the conversion.

Widnes extended their lead seven minutes later. Houston passed to Craven and although the Widnes full-back was briefly halted, he threw a wide pass from his knees to send Marsh over for the try. Gilmore hit the post with the conversion attempt.

With nine minutes remaining and the hosts eight points adrift, Joe Mellor took the ball to the line, twisted awkwardly and lost possession as he writhed in pain. The knock-on was awarded by referee Phil Bentham, allowing Catalans to attack the Widnes line.

Sam Moa went within four metres of the Widnes line and a short ball from Lucas Albert saw Julian Bousquet charge over under the posts. Walsh converted to reduce the deficit to just two points.

In the closing moments, and with Catalans throwing everything at the Widnes defence in an attempt to avoid the Million Pound Game. Marsh produced the tackle of the game to prevent Tierney scoring the matchwinning try.

And the home side’s hopes ended in the last minute when Myler knocked on in front of the Widnes posts.

What they said

Steve McNamara
(Joe Giddens/Empics)

Catalans coach Steve McNamara: “Really disappointed, we didn’t play well enough to win the game even though we could have snatched it right at the end. I thought we looked in charge for the initial 15-20 minutes but from that point we made lots of errors and probably got out ‘last played’ by them, their last play was much better than ours and put us in in really tough positions.”

Widnes coach Denis Betts: “Relieved, we made it hard work for ourselves. I thought we were the better team, we scored a couple of decent tries, it was edgy. It was what it was, it was a great day, the pitch was great, the sun was out, there was no wind, it was dry, and the rugby was rubbish.”

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