Betts hopes Vikings will rise to occasion
Widnes Vikings coach Denis Betts is hoping a big derby atmosphere can inspire his struggling side to an upset victory over Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium tomorrow night.
The Vikings go into their first competitive game against their nearest neighbours for seven years still smarting from a Stobart Super League record 76-6 defeat by Catalan Dragons which was merely the latest setback on the club’s return to the top flight.
“We enjoy the fact we are playing against big sides, champion sides,” Betts said. “It is something we are excited about. We are suffering a bit with form but this is where we want to be.
“You know it is going to be a big ask, especially at Easter, but there are going to be decent crowds and plenty of excitement in the games. This is what we are in this league for.
“We came here in a warm-up game and there was a bit of bite in it then from the fans. They know it means a lot to get one over each other.
“I can’t promise them anything but we are going to be coming here with a good attitude and to put a performance on.”
Warrington coach Tony Smith, who takes his side to face the Dragons in Perpignan on Monday, has plenty of sympathy for their local rivals and is delighted with the return of the derby.
“We have got some rivalry with St Helens and Wigan but this is a genuine derby,” he said. “It means a lot to the people in the street.
“The fact is Widnes have had some good results lately and are building a squad.
“It is tough. I have been in their position at the other end of the competition. I know how difficult it is to sustain it and it is a big learning curve for their club.
“They will have some terrific performances this year and some low ones, just like any other team, but it probably hurts them when they are off their game or go to somewhere as strong as Catalan.
“They won’t be the only team that gets a hiding at Catalan. We’ve got them on Monday and hopefully we won’t be on the end of that sort of scoreline.”
While Widnes will be aiming to lift themselves off the bottom of the table, Warrington have the chance to return to the top - at least for 24 hours - but they, too, are coming off the back of a defeat and Smith admits they have yet to find their form this year.
“We have been a bit frustrated with the way we have been playing and have talked a lot about how we are self-harming - making a lot of errors,” said Smith, whose side went down 28-16 at home to St Helens in another derby last Friday.
“We are conscious of the way we are playing and understand that we haven’t quite been firing to the best of our ability.”
In tomorrow’s other game, London Broncos will be aiming to continue their impressive home form when they host the free-scoring Catalans.
The Broncos have suffered a series of heavy losses on their travels but they have been competitive in every home game so far this season and lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with a 36-0 win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats last Saturday.
“They are starting to find their rhythm,” admitted Dragons coach Trent Robinson. “They seem to be getting better each week and they have produced some really good performances in the last month.”
The Dragons have included teenage winger Damien Cardiac in their initial squad following his remarkable four-try feat on debut but Robinson says he is not guaranteed to keep his spot in the side.
“I’ll keep that to myself,” he said. “He showed enough to indicate he is a really good player but it’s about progression and knowing when to play him and not to play him.”