Widnes made the perfect start to their Super League campaign with a surprisingly comfortable 40-12 victory over a wretched Catalans Dragons at the Halton Stadium.
The French side, who had to win the Million-Pound Game last year to keep their place in Super League, led 12-6 after 24 minutes thanks to tries on debut from David Mead and Benjamin Jullien but they collapsed in alarming fashion after the break, when they conceded five tries.
Second-rower Chris Dean was the Vikings’ hero with two of their seven tries while architects of the home side’s impressive performance were home-grown half-backs Tom Gilmore and Joe Mellor.
Dragons coach Steve McNamara, who also gave debuts to Michael McIlorum and Samisoni Langi, will point to the disruption caused by the 2017 World Cup which featured 15 members of his squad for some mitigation for a truly awful second-half performance but he clearly has a big job to do in turning the French team into a top-four team again.
The Catalans have a reputation for being team lacking discipline and they were at their worst in the first 10 minutes, conceding five penalties and having Sam Moa sent to the sin bin for a late tackle on Mellor, and they duly conceded the first try as Dean smashed through a hole in their defence to go over in the 12th minute.
However, they managed to survive a team warning and, once Moa returned to the field, they began to look the more enterprising team and took the lead with two tries in seven minutes.
Mead took Luke Walsh’s pass on the last tackle to score his first Super League try and fellow newcomer Jullien got his hand to the ball over the line after defender Charlie Runciman failed to deal with Langi’s kick.
Walsh added both goals to give his side a 12-6 lead and both sides spurned further chances before Dean sidestepped his way through the Catalans defence to send Mellor clear for Widnes’ second try six minutes before half-time.
Gilmore’s second conversion levelled the scores and the home side went on to dominate the second half.
They regained the lead eight minutes into the second half when former Catalans centre Krisnan Inu, on his debut, leapt above his former team-mate Brayden Wiliame to touch down Gilmore’s high kick.
Gilmore added the conversion and opened up a two-score lead three minutes later with a penalty.
The impressive Dean then charged onto Mellor’s pass to score his second try and Matt Whitley combined with Runciman to get winger Patrick Ah Van over 10 minutes from the end.
Gilmore maintained his 100 per cent record by kicking his sixth goal but lost his accuracy as the home side finished in total control, adding further tries from Runciman and Stefan Marsh in the last six minutes.