Kevin Brown masterminded Widnes Vikings’ shaky passage to victory over Batley and a Challenge Cup quarter-final against trophy favourites St Helens.
The Widnes skipper scored two tries and helped create two others to end the plucky Bulldogs’ giant-killing hopes. But it was a tremendous effort by the Championship side, who fought back from 26-6 down early in the second half to trail only 26-22 with 12 minutes left.
Tries by Alex Rowe, Wayne Reittie (2), sandwiched by another from Matt Fozard, stunned Widnes who were relieved to hang on for a nervy victory.
Batley have now lost all five Challenge Cup matches against Widnes since 1925 but turned in a battling show to earn a standing ovation from their fans at the final hooter.
Batley had outstanding forwards in try scorer Alex Rowe and James Brown and boss John Kear said: “It was a great effort and that’s what the Challenge Cup is all about.
“We were the minnows, underdogs and written off but had a growing belief in ourselves.
“I’m sure everyone enjoyed it in the stadium and it was great for the Widnes fans to give us a standing ovation at the end.
“Alex Rowe has always had that in his locker and I told my players to watch out for Kevin Brown in their side.
“But we had our own Brown star in James and full-back James Craven showed how good he is too. We showed a great deal of belief, desire and mental toughness and really dug deep at the well. We got excited near the end to make it a thrilling cup tie.”
Widnes: Owens, Ah Van, Marsh, Phelps, Flynn, Brown, Mellor, Dudson, White, Jospeh, Clarkson, Whitley, Isa. Subs: Heremaia, Manuokafoa, Leuluai, Dean.
Batley: Craven, Reittie, Ainscough, Faal, Bretherton, Ainscough, Leak, Leatherbarrow, Gledhill, Blake, Rowe, Scott, Day, Brown. Subs: Chandler, Fozard, Lillycrop, Hesketh.
Referee: Joe Cobb (RFL).