JAMES Ford scorched in for four tries as the Vikings began their defence of the Northern Rail Cup with a 50-6 win over Gateshead Thunder.

Ford showed far too much gas for the Championship One side particularly in a first half in which Widnes threatened to run riot.

Indeed a 34-0 half-time lead suggested Paul Cullen's men would coast away after the break but credit to the visitors who managed to restrict Widnes to just three more tries.

But perhaps the major negative on the night was the goalkicking.

Scott Yates and Shane Grady managed just three goals between them despite the Vikings running in a total of eleven tries.

Still, for a first competitive game of the season, Paul Cullen will no doubt settle for a win and a healthy positive balance on his side's points difference.

After a couple of early fumbles, it quickly became obvious the Vikings would be far too strong for the Co-Operative Championship opponents.

Stand-off Anthony Thackeray strolled in for the first try before Ford's support play saw him register his first two scores in quick succession.

Prop Steve Pickersgill showed great skill to score from his own grubber-kick before Ford completed a hat-trick on 27 minutes.

Dual contract signing Chris Dean powered in four minutes later before Grady took advantage of a huge overlap to complete the first-half scoring at 34-0.

To their credit, Gateshead showed some spirit in the second half and although Ford scored his fourth on 48 minutes they were having a bigger say in the proceedings.

It took a further 20 minutes for Widnes to add to their tally when Dean crashed in for his second to make it 44-0.

Thunder got the try their second half effort deserved when winger Robin Peers followed up his own kick to score but Widnes second row Dave Allen had the last word as he found a big hole in a tiring Gateshead rearguard.

Widnes will be pleased to have started with a win but their are tougher challenges down the track.

Widnes: Ford (4t); Yates, Dean (2t), Grady (1t), Gardner (1t); Thackeray (1t), Webster; Pickersgill (1t), Smith, Gannon, Doran, Allen (1t), Gerrard. Subs: Coyle, Kavanagh, Strong, Houghton.