Widnes Vikings 25 Bradford Bulls 20

WIDNES Vikings won a breathless, exciting and at times controversial Betfred Championship encounter against Bradford Bulls this afternoon at Halton Stadium.

The Bulls thought that they might have snatched it with Elliot Minchella’s late try but it was ruled out for obstruction and the hosts were awarded a penalty - much to the visitors' frustration.

Fittingly on St Patrick’s Day the final score for Widnes - bottom of the table due to their points deduction following administration but having won four of their opening five games - had come minutes earlier from Irish international Ryan Ince in the right-hand corner.

Tries for the Bulls came from winger David Foggin-Johnston, second-row forward Connor Farrell and interchange James Green, with Minchella adding four goals.

Points for Widnes came from wingers Keanan Brand and Ince, stand-off Danny Craven and hooker James Johnstone, with full back Jack Owen landing four goals and Craven a drop goal.

The Bulls recalled Minchella, who had recovered from a broken nose, and he slotted in at stand-off alongside Matty Wildie after Jordan Lilley failed a late fitness test with a dead leg - the latest injury jinx for John Kear's side at half-back. Matty Garside came in for Jake Webster.

After Irish music celebrating St Patrick’s Day, there was a marked contrast with a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Bulls immediately won a penalty for interference but the Vikings comfortably survived their first defensive set of six.

The visiting fans were in fine voice behind the posts that Widnes were defending in the first half but the Bulls conceded ground and then a penalty, which the hosts made count with a show-and-go try by stand-off Craven in sixth minute, with Jack Owens adding the conversion.

Harrison Hansen then threatened to make inroads for Widnes but the raid was stopped by a Wildie interception, and the Bulls then took play deep into the Vikings 20.

Widnes then broke down their left-hand flank and Foggin-Johnston was left exposed with Owens advancing towards him and two home players bearing down on his chip ahead.

Left winger Keanan Brand took the kind bounce to ghost over near the posts, allowing Owens to add a second goal in the 14th minute.

However, Brandon Pickersgill's kick-off forced a goal-line drop out for the Vikings, which they survived before again pumping the ball down Foggin-Johnston's wing to give the Bulls a scrum on their 20-metre line.

Wildie's kick, although fielded well, forced a second goal-line drop-out, which was well caught by Pickersgill sliding forwards, and that set the Bulls up for a try, with Minchella and Pickersgill creating a two-on-one to allow Foggin-Johnston to score in the 19th minute.

Minchella confidently landed the goal from halfway in on the right.

The game was really opening up now, with the Vikings threatening down their right via Anthony Gelling, who was hauled down by Ethan Ryan before Ross Oakes made good ground down the middle for the Bulls.

The visitors threatened again via Foggin-Johnston on the right before Liam Kirk was almost tip-tackled, but the Bulls didn't let the hosts off the hook as second-row forward Farrell went over in the 26th minute.

Minchella's conversion to tie up the scores was a formality.

Sam Hallas then conceded penalty for an incorrect play-the-ball and Widnes got a second set of six after a kick was blocked.

Ryan staved off the immediate danger by intercepting on his wing but the ball was soon lost and Vikings hooker Jordan Johnstone made them pay with a third home try, which Owens again improved.

Widnes, finding their second wind, won another penalty but blew their initial chance and the one after that as the half drew towards a close.

The Bulls then won a penalty just inside the Widnes half and, with 50 seconds left, Minchella made a good connection to land the goal, making the score 18-14 to the home side after an entertaining first period.

Widnes had the first opportunity of the second half when Pickersgill spilled a kick, but the Vikings’ kick on the sixth tackle was awful and went dead.

Ted Chapelhow was then held up over the line but stern Bulls defence then forced Widnes out of play on the right.

The Vikings were looking dangerous again but Ryan's antenna was up and he again intercepted to relieve the pressure.

Foggin-Johnston then collected a kick through at the expense of their third goal-line drop-out, but the visitors soon conceded a penalty in front of the posts, which Owens landed to make it 20-14.

The Bulls then lost the ball just outside their 20, and Hallas came off worst in a tackle, staggering around like a punch-drunk boxer in the 12th round and was immediately replaced.

Seconds later, Craven slotted a drop goal to extend Widnes' lead to seven points just past the hour.

The Vikings now had the Bulls pinned in their 20, and the visitors then lost James Green to an injury, with Callum Bustin coming on.

With Craven on the floor in midfield, Widnes kicked to the Bulls' right corner and a melee ensued there, with both touch judges coming on to help referee Gareth Hewer.

Seconds later there was another fracas as tempers ran high, and again all three officials were on, with the upshot being a Bulls penalty.

They soon won another, and Steve Crossley almost made the line with the game still at fever pitch.

Inside the final ten minutes there was finally a lull as Johnstone got cramp, and Crossley being penalised gave the Vikings some respite.

The home side cashed as nice hands in tight spaces gave right winger Ince the chance to cross by the flag and celebrate St Patrick's Day. Owens understandably missed the tough kick.

However, Green then replied in quick order for the Bulls and Minchella's swift conversion made it 25-20 with less than four minutes left.

Minchella then crossed for the Bulls but it was ruled out and Widnes were awarded a penalty.

The Vikings then pumped the ball into the Bulls' left-hand corner, meaning that they would have to score from deep, and they could not manage it.