Heysham Atoms put in an encouraging display in defeat to last year’s Premier Division runners-up Widnes St Maries.
The Trimpell side’s toughest test in the top tier to date saw the Atoms rise to the challenge with the result flattering the hosts who had also reached last year’s National Cup final.
The Heysham side included seven of last year’s under 18s with Michael Forrest particularly catching the eye as he switched from the wing to full back, putting in a host of try-saving tackles.
Widnes went on the offensive from the off with the Atoms on the back foot for the opening 20 minutes.
Some the visitors’ pain was self-inflicted as they were poor in possession with the energy expended needed to defend their line ultimately proving costly late on.
The hosts’ first try came on 18 minutes but it sparked the Atoms into life.
Hooker Dan Helme benefited from an energised pack who were now moving forward and he found skipper Liam Hall with a short pass and the big prop forward did the rest, Forrest’s conversion putting the visitors into an unlikely 6-4 lead.
An attack close to the Atoms line was then superbly defended by Dan Ginocchio and Forrest on the last tackle but as Heysham tried to clear their lines a one-on-one steal handed Widnes an opportunist try.
St Maries increased their lead to 10 points as half-time approached scoring a third try against a tiring Atoms defence.
A couple of personnel changes livened things up for the Atoms however and they began to have a real go.
Andrew Collins made a welcome return after a number of weeks away and was constantly involved in the action, getting under the skin of the Widnes side along the way.
The visitors’ good work was rewarded as Helme then put his captain Hall in for the second time with his try again being converted by Forrest.
The momentum was now with the Atoms.
Jack Edmondson, Billy Livingstone and Jack Lawton all made clean breaks but a combination of good defending and lack of support prevented these being turned into points.
It had developed into a physical clash but the inexperienced Atoms outfit stood their ground as both sides saw players sin binned.
The Atoms came off worse in the reduction of numbers however with sterling defensive work from Stuart Lacey and Forrest preventing further scores.
Curtis Lacey was aggressive in his tackling and running all day long and on a strong charge to the line created a four-on-two overlap but unfortunately the ball was kept in hand for a split second too long and the St Maries defenders snuffed out the danger.
A Livingstone chip and chase then nearly got winger Lawton away but the ball just beat him to the sidelines.
That was as good as things got for the Atoms as the Widnes side pulled away in the final 10 minutes with three converted tries.
An ugly brawl on the final whistle again had the referee brandishing cards of both colours as he finally lost patience, the Widnes side picking up the two points despite a brave Atoms display.
*Heysham Atoms’ Under 14s were 66-4 winners over Folly Lane from Swinton on Sunday.
In a dominant Atoms display, Ike Eastwood was the star man, his incredible 40-point haul including eight tries and nine conversions.
Simon Cody and Kyle Barton also crossed for tries on a memorable day for the Atoms youngsters.