Following the midweek departure of coach Simon Finnigan, the Widnes Vikings had the most difficult of tasks as they travelled over the Pennines to take on the Champions elect in the form of Brian McDermott´s Featherstone Rovers who were seeking the win to go back above Leigh to the top of the table.
Some recent heavy defeats have shattered the Vikings confidence and dashed their hopes of a play-off place, but Featherstone are flying high remaining unbeaten thus far in the championship season. The bookies were certain the Rovers would pick up the two points, and few, if any, in the stadium would argue any different.
Ten minutes from the first whistle Craig Hall went from acting half back through a broken defensive line to stretch over the top of a Widnes defender and ground. The Rovers centre added the conversion for 6-0, the onslaught had started.
A great tackle from Ollie Brooks prevented Gareth Gale from getting the second on fourteen but two minutes later there was a walk-in try for Jack Bussey as he exploited the overlap as the Widnes defence scrambled. Hall kicked the extras for a 12-0 lead.
John Davies scored a twenty metre try off a Hall pass on nineteen as the Widnes defenders, mainly Joe Lyons, couldn´t stop him crossing the line and rolling over to score. Lyons left the field for a head assessment as Hall added the conversion for 18-0, the home side scoring at almost a point a minute.
It was all way too easy when a great break by Bussey, supported by Hall saw Morgan Smith cross at the end of a flowing move. Hall added the conversion for 24-0, the Vikings had no answer to Featherstone´s questions.
A poor kick played dividends as the Widnes defence failed to deal as Luke Briscoe tapped back and Smith picked up the loose ball to dot down for his second. Hall added the conversion for five from five for 30-0 on the half hour. Every time Featherstone attacked, they crossed the whitewash.
A three on one move saw Connor Jones over for the sixth try of the afternoon against an increasingly absent defence, as his colleagues lined up to assist. Hall was in target again for 36-0.
Luke Briscoe brought up the forty as he took a Jesse Sene-Lefeo pass to cross down the wing and when Hall kicked the conversion it had been the perfect first half for the flat cappers as they demolished the visitors with a sublime first half performance.
Widnes were kicking uphill in the second half, as if things could get any worse.
Sene-Lefeo was again the provider as Featherstone started the second half as they had ended the first as he passed to Joey Leilua to cross on the overlap in the corner. Hall added the conversion, the two thousandth of his career, for 48-0.
Within two minutes Briscoe collected a Leilua kick to ghost past his marker Holroyd and cross for his second of the game. Hall was again accurate with the boot, still one hundred percent for the afternoon. Featherstone were sensation but Widnes were playing their part by being dreadful.
Matty Fozard collected a Smith kick which hit the post pad for Widnes, to finally get their name on the board and avoid the nilling, as he went in under the sticks. Steve Tyrer added the conversion, the Featherstone lead cut to a mere forty-eight points.
Briscoe´s hat-trick came on fifty as he took a pass above his head and again exploited the wing to go over for the four-pointer. Hall kicked his tenth goal for the game, from ten attempts, for a score line of 60-6.
Leilua was instrumental in the eleventh try of the afternoon for Rovers as he put in the final pass to Sene-Lefeo for a walk-in try. Hall added the goal to bring up the number of the beast, 66-6.
Bussey got his second of the afternoon on seventy-eight minutes after a decent period for Widnes and Hall finally failed to add a conversion, Rovers 70-6 ahead with seconds remaining.
A great run from Mark Kheirallah set up Hall for the final try of the game, he´d started it and he finished it, although he missed the conversion for 74-6, a magnificent home win.
This was a Featherstone masterclass as they demolished an awful Widnes side who had started the season with some hope, but who now saw it lying in tatters around them as the search for a new head coach. Featherstone are the real deal as they return to the top of the pile, and few would doubt their credentials, or the validity of a claim for a place in Super League next season, should it come to pass.
Featherstone Rovers: Kheirallah, Briscoe (3T), Leilua (T), Hall (2T, 11G), Smith (2T), Jacks, Kopczak, Jones (T), Lockwood, Bussey (2T), Davies (T), Moors. Subs: Pickersgill, Cooper, Sene-Lefeo (T), Ferres.
Widnes Vikings: Roby, Brookes, Fleming, Tyrer (G), Holroyd, Lyons, Smith, Burgess, Fozard (T), Doro, Davies, Wilde, Bent. Subs: Tilleke, Baker, Farnworth, Hulme.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 16-0, 18-0, 22-0, 24-0, 28-0, 30-0, 34-0, 36-0, 40-0, 42-0 : HT : 46-0, 48-0, 52-0, 54-0, 54-4, 54-6, 58-6, 60-6, 64-6, 66-6, 70-6, 74-6 : FT.
Referee: Aaron Moore.