Widnes battle past Halifax to reach last eight of Challenge Cup once again
Widnes shrugged off their poor Super League form to reach the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-finals for a fourth successive season with a 28-18 victory over Halifax.
But in broiling conditions at The Shay, Denis Betts\' side made heavy weather of subduing their part-time Championship hosts.
Widnes surrendered an 18-6 first-half lead and were indebted to centre Charly Runciman for keeping them within 180 minutes of an August Wembley date.
The Vikings were under the cosh when Australian Runciman, who bagged two tries on debut when the sides squared up in last season\'s Middle 8 qualifiers, dived over for his team\'s fourth try 17 minutes from time.
Widnes finally sealed their place in the last eight when substitute James Chapelhow seized on Joe Mellor\'s kick to touch down after 75 minutes.
Halifax progressed to the last 16 with only one try conceded in landslide victories over amateur opposition, Pilkington Recs and Lock Lane.
The Vikings also had little trouble getting through the previous round, trashing Rochdale Hornets 62-6, but six straight top-flight defeats and Halifax\'s run of three successive wins left Richard Marshall\'s outfit optimistic of reversing last season\'s 14-0 Middle 8\'s whitewash.
They remained in contention for long periods and only trailed by six points at the break.
Tries from Aaron Heremaia, Lloyd White and Chris Houston - all goaled by Rhys Hanbury - gave Widnes an 18-6 lead going into the last minute of the first half.
But Halifax, who had cancelled Heremaia\'s fourth-minute opener through a converted try from winger James Saltonstall, saw Scott Murrell tee up substitute Adam Robinson just before the interval to leave the tie neatly balanced.
Murrell was also the architect of Halifax\'s equalising try four minutes after the break. The former Hull KR utility star chipped over the visitors defence and full-back Miles Greenwood raced onto the loose ball to score under the posts.
Steve Tyrer\'s third goal made it 18-18, the scoreline when the two sides met in a pre-season friendly. Marshall\'s men were looking good value for an upset as the Vikings struggled to make any in-roads into Halifax territory during the penultimate quarter.
They were not helped either by a two-to-one penalty count against them but, finally breaking a run of four consecutive penalties, Widnes scored with their first notable attack since the interval, and it proved to be a decisive moment.
Heremaia was the provider and Runciman scooted over in the corner.
Hanbury missed the conversion but any lingering hopes of an upset were removed when Chapelhow, a late replacement for injured Eamon O\'Carroll, went under the posts. Hanbury improved to finish a cracking contest with four goals.