The early season optimism around Widnes feels a distant memory after they slumped to a 32-6 defeat at York.
After winning four in a row to kick-off 2022, Widnes have now lost three consecutive games – conceding more than 30 points in all three.
While the defeat to Leigh was unsurprising, the manner of the subsequent losses to Barrow and now York raise questions about the Vikings’ prospects.
The display at York was as ordinary as they’ve been, lacking life, enthusiasm and go forward.
A nonsense early sin-binning for Eribe Doro – shown a yellow card by Ben Thaler for lifting in the tackle after seven minutes – was unfortunate but not an excuse for what followed.
Whether it disrupted the game plan, who knows, but Widnes only trailed 6-0 after his absence and did get back on level terms thanks to Adam Lawton’s wonderful individual try.
Owen Farnworth went close to a try on the stroke of half time before Steve Tyrer could only find touch with a quick pass at the corner. Even at 16-6 down at the break, there was still potential in the game.
But Widnes offered little in the second half. York controlled the game, completing their sets and managing the territory with very little Widnes resistance.
The game breaking try came when Brendan O’Hagan chipped over the top on the fourth tackle, catching full back Jack Owens out of position and allowing Matty Marsh to pick up unopposed and touch down.
Of the three first half tries, two came from long range breaks and the third courtesy of a fine offload close to the line by the excellent on-loan Leeds teenager Levi Edwards.
Owens made his first appearance of the season and his understudy Lloyd Roby might consider himself unlucky to have been dropped at his expense. Owens tried to liven up the play on the short side on occasion, but York were well on top.
Their forwards were bigger and hungrier through the middle, and the enthusiasm of the likes of substitute Marcus Stock was unmatched by the visitors.
Even an injury to Jamie Ellis didn’t disrupt the hosts, with Danny Kirmond and Jordan Thompson particularly strong in the forwards.
Widnes simply couldn’t make progress through the middle or find any sort of creativity or pace out wide. Even with Sam Wilde and Adam Lawton running wide in the back row, they were simply never found in decent areas.
The lack of attacking prowess was perhaps best summed up when late in the game, Doro powered through the middle off a Kenny Baker offload and then found Joe Lyons, who was hauled down. It was the first time Widnes had been with 10 metres of the York line, yet the move broke down on the next tackle as the ball was thrown aimlessly side to side before Tyler Dupree put down Lawton’s desperate offload.
In terms of positives, Liam Bent was the hardest working of the forwards while Wilde was at his steady best. At the back, Matt Fleming could hold his head high after being moved on to the wing in place of Brad Holroyd.
The worry for Widnes and their performance was that save for Danny Craven, they virtually had a full strength team available.
Frustratingly, there are now once again two weeks until the next game to put it right – with Widnes back in action against Newcastle two weeks on Monday live on Premier Sports.
Should Roby return, with Owens perhaps moving to stand off?
Will we ever see Jake Spedding again and could his pace and attacking ability add some much needed threat?
Does Matty Fozard need support off the bench in the hooking role, whether that be Lewis Hulme or Dec Gregory?