Widnes coach Denis Betts praised the character of his side after they overcame two early injury blows to break their Magic Weekend duck with a gritty 30-24 win over Salford.
The Vikings lost scrum-half Danny Craven inside the first minute after he knocked himself out attempting to tackle Gareth Hock while hooker and captain Jon Clarke went off shortly afterwards with a calf muscle injury.
But winger Paddy Flynn opened and closed the scoring as Betts’ men twice came from behind to clinch their first win at the Etihad Stadium at the third attempt.
“There is no question about the character in this team but to see it coming out in that kind of situation was fantastic,” Betts said. “We lost Danny Craven in the first 30 seconds and then Jon Clarke 10 to 15 minutes into the game so we lost all our attacking shape virtually.
“Kevin Brown and Rhys Hanbury had to organise the team and we were all over the shop attacking wise but I think what you saw was a really good team effort, with players willing to work hard for each other.
“I’m really proud of them with the knocks we took to score more tries than them and have two opportunites at the end to take it away from them quite clearly.”
The Vikings were particularly indebted to former England international Kevin Brown, who shaded his half-back duel with Rangi Chase.
“He’s been fantastic for us,” said Betts. “I made him my key signing and you can see why.
“Everything I saw when he was 18 or 19 when I was coaching the Under-19s at Wigan is still there. He’s international class.”
Salford led 12-4 midway through the first half after the impressive Junior Sa’u and Chase scored classy tries and, after Widnes fought back to level by the break, went in front again with Matty Ashurst’s try 90 seconds into the second half.
They were still in contention thanks to a Danny Williams solo try but the turning point came when prop Lama Tasi spilled the ball five metres from the line after colliding with defender Macgraff Leuluai and Widnes full-back Rhys Hanbury pounced and raced away to score an ultimately crucial 95-metre try.
Referee Tim Roby allowed the advantage to Widnes but Red Devils coach Iestyn Harris believes he should have stopped play immediately to allow Tasi to have treatment.
“I think if it’s a head injury, it stops,” Harris said. “That the duty of care we have in rugby league and I’m not sure why he didn’t stop it. We had doctors and physios running on the field and everybody waits to watch a 90-metre try. We should have prevented it but you’d have expected the game to have been stopped.”
The defeat leaves Salford without a win in six matches but Harris is adamant that his team are on the up despite being on the end of a series of contentious calls.
“One of their tries was 100 per cent from a forward pass which came off a really dominant defensive set and they are crucial things in a game,” Harris said. “I thought Greg Eden had a try - I don’t know why they didn’t go to the screen.
“That game was there for us to dominate. The boys are pretty disappointed because they showed a lot of effort .
“Just at the moment things are going against us and heads are going down. They’re hurting but they’re a resilient bunch and we’re working hard to turn it around.”
Harris was forced to use full-back Jake Mullaney as a makeshift scrum-half in the absence of Tim Smith and Theo Fages and his problems worsened when the Australian suffered a shoulder injury.
“We’re certainly struggling in the half-back department,” Harris added.