In the final pre season warm up game, Wild took on top Division One side Blackburn Hawks. The East Lancashire side were Play-off Champions in 2012 - 13 and finalists in 2013 -14. A good sized crowd welcomed the teams with a large, noisy following from Blackburn.
An interference penalty against Pavel Vales in the 2nd minute allowed the visitors an advantage from which Aaron Davies scored an opening goal. There was an immediate response from Widnes, with Shaun Dipnall breaking clear only to see his powerful shot well saved by netminder Dan Brittle. The first period saw the home side testing the visitors net with quick breakouts. However the home defence, struggled to cope with the speedy and highly skilled visiting forwards. Further Blackburn goals came from Luke Brittle and captain, Chris Arnone, in the 13th and 16th minutes respectively.
The second period was completely dominated by the visitors, who outshot the home side 20 to 1. Blackburn's speed and strength combined with the outstanding skills of the Brittle brothers, Adam and Luke, finished the game as a contest. Blackburn goals came from Nurse, Davies, Adam Brittle and Riddoch. In an attempt to give all the club's netminders pre season time, Greg Ruxton replaced Stu Ashton in the 30th minute for Widnes.
A tactical change saw the Wild attack far more effectively but they found visiting netminder Daniel Brittle in outstanding form.
Bobby Caunce opened up the visitors defence ably supported by Lee Pollitt and Filip Supa. Several outstanding saves from Brittle kept the home side scoreless and two further 52nd minute Blackburn goals from Luke Brittle wrapped up the scoring.
Pavel Vales took the MVP for Widnes with his skill and speed causing constant concern for the visitors. The game emphasised the major gulf between playing standards in the two divisions. For parts of the game Widnes matched their lofty opponents but could not match their finishing ability.
* The previous night, Wild visited Blackburn in the opening leg of the double challenge and suffered a 7 - 1 reverse. Sam Dunford took the MVP for Wild on his return to his former club, with Chris Preston scoring the Wild's lone goal.
Widnes Head Coach, Mark Gillingham was philosophical in defeat. 'We've taken on one of the best teams we could have faced twice in one weekend. It's obviously been a tough weekend, but we know what we have to aspire to. A huge positive to take was the fact that our best period we had of the six we played was the last one, so we've adjusted to the higher standard. That's something that will stand us in good stead when Solihull visit for our first league game on Saturday. '
The new league season gets underway on Saturday when reigning champions, Solihull Barons are the visitors - face off 19.00. The following night Blackburn Eagles visit Widnes, with an 18.15 face off. Seats are available on both nights, with doors opening an hour before face off.
Photos by Geoff White - www.gw-images.co.uk
Top: New signing Luke Brittle scores for Blackburn Hawks
Bottom: Widnes' new import signing Pavel Vales was Wild MVP