At first glance the West Wales Raiders versus the Widnes Vikings was a strange selection as the first match by the BBC. But dig a little below the surface and the debuts for Rugby Union superstar thirty-three times Welsh capped Gavin Henson, and former Super League Man of Steel and journeyman Rangi Chase, both in the colours of the ambitious Raiders. Their including made this a mouth-watering prospect as they took on one of the all-time cup kings.
The favourites were clearly the visitors, playing their rugby in the higher league and with many years of top-level cup pedigree, but with home advantage and a couple of unknowns there was always the chance that the home side may spring a surprise.
Stebonheath Park in Llanelli was the venue, a three-and-a-half-hour drive for the Vikings
Early honours were even, the Raiders showing little of the expected big-occasion nerves. It was the home side who looked like opening the scoring thanks to a brilliant Rangi Chase break down the middle.
With eleven on the clock Uraia Naulusala put the Raiders into the lead when he was on hand to finish in the right corner off a basketball pass from Chase. Widnes were shellshocked as Gavin Henson, taking the kicking duties, couldn’t add the conversion from the sideline.
A bad knock for Calum O’Neill on fourteen saw the Widnes loose forward receive on-field treatment for over fifteen minutes before being stretchered off.
Within a minute of the restart Shane Grady found a gap in the West Wales defence as the second rower levelled the scores. Jack Owens added the conversion to edge his side into the lead.
A tip-tackle from Jamie Murphy span Owen Buckley and rammed him into the ground giving the referee had no option to brandish the red card. West Wales down to twelve for the remainder of the game, making the difficult almost impossible.
Two sets on from the penalty Steve Tyrer found some space down the left wing to go over on the corner. Owens added the conversion from wide for 12-4.
A nicely worked try on twenty-seven saw Dion Cross in an acre of space down the right to score from twenty metres out. Widnes were starting to boss the game, the loss of their teammate seemed to focus them, and it was now looking like a Widnes demolition. Owens added the goal for 18-4.
On the half hour Widnes were in again, an Owens walk over off a Craven pass, and it was all too easy for the Championship side. West Wales had no answer, the Vikings now totally dominant.
A Cross break from close to his own line saw the Widnes winger find Jake Spedding in support to put the gas down and run the angle for the last twenty to get the fifth Widnes try. Owens missed his first conversion of the game but with the scoreline at 28-4, the half-time hooter sounded.
Under a minute after the restart Owens got his second try of the game as the Raiders defence looked like they were still chewing on their oranges. The Vikings full-back added the conversion to his try for 34-4, it was all one-way traffic.
Will Tilleke was sin-binned for Widnes on forty-four for an illegal tackle.
On fifty-six Tyrer got his second of the game after spotting a small gap to go through and hit the line when he had players in support outside him. Owens conversion attempt was waved away, the Raiders now trying to limit the damage with over twenty left on the clock.
On sixty-two it was a walk in for Spedding as he got his second of the afternoon, finding a big gap down the right-hand side to cross without a defensive hand on him. Owens was again wide of the mark, Widnes 42-4 ahead.
Steve Tyrer completed his hat-trick on seventy-one taking a looping ball to go five metres to walk in on a big overlap. Owens added the conversion as Widnes edged towards the half century.
The fifty came up through an Adam Lawton walk-in down the left-hand side, the tenth Widnes try of the afternoon with two minutes left on the clock. Owens failed to add the conversion but seconds later he completed his own hat-trick and added the conversion on the final hooter for 58-4.
It’s Widnes who make the cup progress and who will now face a home game with Whitehaven in the second-round next weekend. The Raiders showed some spirit and had a few chances of points, but the Vikings were way too strong for the Championship One side.
West Wales Raiders: Cowburn, Naulusala (T), Murphy (SO on 19), Webb, Nadaubale, Henson, Chase, Morgan Phillips, Allen, Conner, Burke, Evans. Subs: Bateman, Boginsoko, Herron, Stroud.
Widnes Vikings: Owens (3T, 7G), Cross (T), Spedding (2T), Tyrer (3T), Buckley, Craven, Smith, Farnworth, Lyons, Baker, Grady (T), Lawton (T), O’Neill. Subs: Else, Dwyer, Tilleke (SB on 44), Wilde.
Referee: Liam Moore.