12:19am Saturday 31st May 2014
WIDNES twice pulled back ten point deficits to snatch a a 26-26 draw against Catalan Dragons at the Select Security Stadium.
The Vikings even had a chance to steal both points when Danny Craven attempted a 55-metre drop-goal with the last kick of the game but the ball fell short.
If Denis Betts' men had took the spoils, Catalan would have felt very hard done to, not least because they had two far more kickable attempts at one-pointers in the preceding minute or so.
The Frenchmen always had the edge in terms of physicality but lacked the composure to apply the killer punch.
It was a strange kind of game and the first half was probably the stranger of the two.
To say Widnes were slow out of the blocks would be a massive understatement. It was as if the Vikings didn't hear the starting gun at all.
The Dragons forwards threatened a break with every drive and it was no surprise when they took the lead on seven minutes.
A Leon Pryce bomb caused confusion in the Vikings defence and Thomas Bosc regathered before cross-kicking for winger Daryl Millard to finish off.
It became 10-0 just three minutes later when a break from their own '20' was finished off by Vincent Duport.
At that stage it looked like being a long day at the office for Widnes.
However, against the run of play they hit back. Tom Gilmore sent Danny Tickle slicing through on half-way and he in turn found the fast-supporting Rhys Hanbury who finished off in style.
Tickle's conversion made it 10-6 and on eighteen minutes Lloyd White got his side on level terms as he weaved 50 metres to the line after latching onto Eloi Pelissier's stray pass.
Somewhat miraculously, the Vikings hit the front seven minutes before the break when centre Stefan Marsh did well to squeeze over in the right corner.
Tickle's superb conversion gave Widnes a 16-10 lead.
The start of the second half was a re-run of the first with Catalan totally dominant.
Fullback Morgan Escare levelled things up from a Zeb Taia offload and Leon Pryce gave the visitors the lead after a Rhys Hanbury fumble had conceded field position.
Once more the Dragons seemed to have taken a stranglehold on the game as winger Michael Oldfield latched onto a Pryce bomb to give his side a 26-16 lead on 56 minutes.
But again they couldn't go on with it.
Handling errors gave the Vikings several repeat sets on the opposition line and Kevin Brown's long pass enabled Jack Owens to pull four points back with a walk-in try.
There was little sign in the ensuing fifteen minutes that Widnes might pull the fat out of the fire but with three minutes remaining they did just that.
Danny Tickle and Paul Clough combined near the Catalan line to send Gilmore over just to the right of the posts for a six-pointer that levelled things up.
Cue the inevitable but ultimately unsuccessful drop-goal frenzy.
Widnes: Hanbury; Dean, Marsh, Phelps, Owens; Brown, Gilmore; Clough, White, Kavanagh, Galea, Tickle, Leuluai. Subs: Craven, Isa, Johnson, Lawton.
Catalan: Escare; Oldfield, Pomeroy, Duport, Millard; Pryce, Bosc; Simon, Pelissier, Lima, Taia, Whitehead, Elima. Subs: Anderson, Bousquet, Paea, Baile.
Referee: P Bentham.
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