Super League: Widnes Vikings 22-22 Wigan Warriors
|Widnes (6) 22|
|Tries: Mellor, Hanbury, Phelps, Dean. Goals: Tickle 2, Marsh|
|Wigan (16) 22|
|Tries: J Tomkins, Gelling 2, Burgess. Goals: Smith 3|
Widnes overcame the first-half sending-off of Patrick Ah Van to secure a draw with Wigan in the opening match of the new Super League season.
Trailing 16-0, then 22-12, the Vikings snatched a point thanks to late tries from Cameron Phelps and Chris Dean.
Ah Van was sent off after catching Josh Charnley with a high, swinging right arm midway through the first half.
Anthony Gelling scored two tries for Wigan, while Joel Tomkins and Joe Burgess grabbed one each.
Widnes also lost their captain, influential playmaker Kevin Brown, with concussion after only 22 minutes, following a heavy tackle from teenage prop Ryan Sutton.
Despite the bitterly cold evening, the visit of last year's Grand Finalists helped generate a crowd of 9,286 at Widnes, the home side's biggest gate in 10 years.
But it was Wigan who opened the scoring when Tomkins powered over from short range after a neat hand-off.
The Warriors were in again soon after, as John Bateman's clever break ended with Gelling going over out wide.
Widnes were still very much in the game but were dealt a blow when referee James Child produced a red card following Ah Van's hit on England winger Charnley.
Gelling grabbed his second try just before the break, after more clever work by Bateman, but Mellor's score reduced the deficit.
Rhys Hanbury, on his 100th career appearance, touched down a well-weighted grubber to give Widnes hope at the start of the second half, but Burgess soon extended the lead for Shaun Wane's side.
Phelps crossed for a try in the corner before Wigan-born Dean drove over under the posts to complete the comeback.
Widnes head coach Denis Betts:
"What you saw tonight was character. You can't buy it, you have to nurture it.
"I thought Aaron Heremaia was outstanding. He went in there and controlled the game from nine.
"It was a red card for Patrick Ah Van, who made contact with his head. I don't think it was malicious, but we've got to get rid of that sort of thing. I hope I would be saying the same thing if we had lost."
Wigan head coach Shaun Wane:
"We invited them into areas where they could score and we played dumb.
"The infuriating thing is, I can't give my players the praise they deserve, as we did some good things in that first half.
"Yes, it feels like a loss. It's 80 minutes you need to perform and need to be consistent and we didn't do that today."
Widnes: Hanbury, Hulme, Phelps, Marsh, Ah Van, Brown, Mellor, O'Carroll, Carberry, Gerrard, Clarkson, Tickle, Cahill.
Replacements: Dean, Heremaia, Isa, Manuokafoa.
Sent Off: Ah Van (24).
Wigan: Bowen, Charnley, Gelling, J. Tomkins, Burgess, Williams, Smith, Crosby, L. Tomkins, Sutton, Bateman, L. Farrell, O'Loughlin.
Replacements: Powell, Clubb, Tautai, Patrick.
Sin Bin: Smith (79).
Referee: James Child (RFL).