The Widnes Vikings headed into their game against Catalans Dragons needing a victory to ensure they were to be once again be playing in the Super League next season.
They ran out 12-10 winners in what was a truly nail-biting contest. Two Tom Gilmore penalty goals had seen Widnes lead at the half hour mark but the game the Dragons fought their way back into it. Tries from Corey Thompson and Stefan Marsh helped Widnes then left the Dragons with too much to do, securing the Vikings’ place in the 2018 Super League.
Victory against Catalans means that Widnes have secured their Super League status now for a seventh straight season, which is remarkable as the odds have been stacked against them for the most part. In fact, Denis Betts’ team had finished bottom of the division at the end of the regular Super League season but had managed to pull off victory against Catalans to confirm their dramatic escape from danger.
So in what really was a season of despair for Widnes, finishing bottom of the Betfred Super League with only 5 victories from 23 matches played, it sort of turned around ok in the end, just. They will certainly be hoping for a lot better over the course of the 2018 campaign and their fans will be demanding a marked improvement from Denis Betts and his men. With that in mind, they have already began to prepare for the new season, even though this one has only just finished.
Over the last few days, Widnes have appointed former Bradford manager Francis Cummins as the assistant coach to Denis Betts, in an attempt to turn things around at the Select Security Stadium. The decline was evident this season after Widnes finished bottom of the pile after ending the 2016 campaign in a respectable 7th place. This could and should be a good move by Betts as he looks to add experience to his staff in order to prevent further woes next season.
Cummins, 40, will be integral in the 2018 season, especially as a former elite level outside back. Denis Betts had highlighted the need to not only recruit an experienced coach but one who had played as an outside back at the very top level, in order to assist the players at the club who currently play in those positions. So not only will Cummins’ coaching expertise be well received, his time as a player will also be a telling factor.
You could probably say that things can’t really get worse for Widnes next season, so the only way should be up. The arrival of Francis Cummins is sure to be a huge boost to everyone. Their first target will undoubtedly be to once again secure their status as a Super League team for an eighth straight campaign, with anything else above that a bonus. Many expect them to fair a lot better next time round though, putting their 2017 woes well behind them.