WIDNES Vikings’ season hinges on 80 minutes on Sunday when they face local rivals Warrington in the Challenge Cup sixth round, writes Mike Critchley.
Currently languishing at the foot of the Super League table, with just two wins and a draw to their name, Vikings face a mammoth task to avoid the relegation battle in the Middle 8s.
A good run in the Challenge Cup could just be the spark of hope they need to fire up a disappointing 2017 – but the derby clash against a Wolves side just beginning to find form will be a tough one.
Vikings boss Denis Betts said: “The Warrington game is massive.
“You can look at it and say this where our season hinges now.
“We are not going to make the Grand Final, but we still have a possibility of making the eight if we go on some sort of fantastic run.
“The Challenge Cup is the one thing we have on offer to give something back to the supporters and this club.
“What better way of starting it than a game against our biggest rivals.”
Warrington had a shocking start to the season, losing their first six games of Super League, but since then they have found a way to win and the confidence has slowly but surely been building.
The Wolves have climbed the table, but will face a battle to make the top four so they too may have their eyes on the Challenge Cup as their best chance of silverware.
Their strengths – when they stick to a simple game plan – is all from the pace they offer from dummy half to get defending sides back-pedalling.
It is something Widnes will have to counter if they are to get any joy at the Halliwell Stadium and spark some life into the season.
“Warrington have built a side to jump out of dummy half; Matty Russell, Stef Ratchford, Ryan Atkins and Rhys Evans have worked really hard at that.
“Then you have got Chris Hill coming on to the ball off the back of that and Daryl Clark and Brad Dwyer getting out from dummy half for them to play off the back of that good field position.
“Once you are on the back foot and are one-on-one against a good player it becomes hard to stop.
“That is what Warrington look for.
“If you can’t get up for these sorts of matches then you are in the wrong game. That is the message this week,” Betts said.
Widnes will be without former Wolves centre Chris Bridge, who was kept in hospital overnight as a precaution after suffering concussion against Hull.
The six-day protocol on players with head knocks was due to start on Monday, but Betts said he’d be “very surprised if Bridge was anywhere near the team”.
Corey Thompson is again absent with injury Widnes again showed their Jekyll and Hyde side on Sunday, giving up a 22-point lead against high-flying Hull to lose.
But Betts was keen for the players to build on the positives that has existed in the last four games rather than mope.
“After the game against Hull we sensed we felt sorry for ourselves for 30 minutes and moped around.
“But chatting with the players there was a recognition that there was some good stuff yesterday.
“We need to build on that and really put a performance together this week,” he said.
Sunday’s Challenge Cup tie at the Halliwell Jones Stadium kicks off at 3pm.