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Hock will miss Vikings trip to Perpignan
VIKINGS will head into a run of four tough fixtures without suspended packman Gareth Hock after he was found guilty of using foul and abusive language towards an in-goal touch judge.
The fiery second row man, who was sent off in the 28th minute of Friday night’s drawn against Bradford, will miss Saturday’s trip to Catalan.
It is a big blow for Widnes – Hock’s physicality would have been a major asset against the abrasive Dragons who are always a more fired-up beast on their home patch.
But after taking three points from their last two games Vikings travel to Perpignan in better shape than last year when they were embarrassed 76-6.
Vikings boss Denis Betts said: “Our forwards are all fired up and buzzing but Catalan are a different animal at home than on their travels.
“They will be hurting as a result of not scoring a point against Wigan and getting beat so convincingly.
“But we know it will be a different ball game in Perpignan.”
The next three weeks will present a formidable challenge to Vikings with the Catalan game followed by home clashes with Wigan and Warrington. That run is topped off with an Easter Monday trip to league leaders Huddersfield.
Betts said: “They are a tough group of games to go into.
“Catalan, then Wigan and then Warrington are physical top end sides.”
Vikings will still be without utility back Cameron Phelps, whose knee has not responded to treatment as well as expected.
The team that snatched the draw against Bradford has come through relatively unscathed, with half back Rhys Hanbury fit to play despite taking a head knock.
And the manner of their draw, achieved despite playing the last 52 minutes with 12 men, will give Vikings some belief that this is a different team to last year’s.
Betts said: “At half time I said to the players we can’t work as hard as we have worked this year and lie down and feel hard done to.
“They came out and really stepped it up. There was some fantastic play from Jon Clarke, Ben Cross and also Rhys Hanbury – as well as Patrick Ah Van.”
Vikings have slightly altered their preparations for this journey to France, spending an extra day away.
“We will be over a bit longer and train out there which will different to last year.
“However, there are no direct flights - we fly to Barcelona and then have a two hour coach trip at the other end.
“But the lads are looking forward to it, they are a group that is enjoying each other’s company at the minute,” Betts said.
Meanwhile Betts hit out at the referee’s decision to send Hock off for swearing.
“I am not condoning swearing, but we have a really good tool with the sin-bin to control things like.
“With 28 minutes gone and 6,000 people watching this game - I am working with chief executive James Rule to build a business where we need 7,000 people every week.
“He sends a bloke off and if we had got beat by 50 points how many people are going to watch this game – and that would have all been because of someone swearing.
“I can’t condone what he said, but you can’t send someone off for that.
“As it was we came out of it pretty good but that is not the point,” he said.