DESPITE a rousing comeback, Wolves could not quite overhaul a significant Widnes lead in the annual festive friendly.

Jack Johnson, Toby King, twice, and Pat Moran all scored in the final quarter to bring The Wire to within a score of coming back from 26 points down to record victory at the Halton Stadium.

Olly Ashall’s double and further efforts from Stefan Marsh and Owen Buckley made it a miserable first half for Wolves, who lost Bryson Goodwin to injury and Ben Westwood to the sin bin, before Keanan Brand put them firmly in command..

In what was Steve Price’s first game in charge of The Wire, things did not get off to a good start.

A sweeping right-edge move from the hosts saw Gilmore play a nice inside pass to send Ashall through a gap for the game’s opening try.

It set the tone for a sub-par first period for The Wire, who then lost Goodwin to a head injury following a high tackle from Jordan Johnstone.

Westwood was the next visiting player to make his way off the field, but not via an injury.

His hand appeared to make contact with Johnstone’s face as he attempted to fend him off in a tackle and, when the ensuing mass brawl had died down, referee Chris Campbell sent the veteran forward for 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Widnes took full advantage with another try on the right edge as Ashall waltzed through the defence once again.

When The Wire were given the chance to attack, too often the final pass or kick was lacking.

Harvey Livett was a particular culprit, sending a kick out on the full before firing a flat pass straight out of play with Wolves threatening the Vikings line.

However, the hosts finished the half with two tries in as many minutes, with the right edge defence of Wolves found wanting on both occasions.

After a scintillating Ashall break had got them up the field, Marsh stepped inside to burrow over before Gilmore’s high kick was claimed by Buckley in the set immediately afterwards.

If Price was hoping for improvement after the break, it did not come immediately.

Ashall caused problems again, with Wolves failing to deal with his grubber kick and allowing Brand to touch down in the right corner.

However, that proved the catalyst for a Wire fightback that almost stole victory.

First, Johnson finished off on the left after holding off several defenders to get the visitors on the board.

Wolves were moving the ball a lot more freely and King’s two tries were carbon copies of one another as he soared high to claim cross-field kicks.

Moran then burrowed over to put Wolves within touching distance with just over a minute remaining, but they could not force another score.

Wolves’ next friendly comes on Saturday, January 13, against Championship side Rochdale Hornets.

Wolves: J Johnson; Russell, Goodwin, T King, Lineham; Livett, Patton; Cooper, Smith, G King, Philbin, L Johnson, Westwood. Subs: Moran, Robson, Pilling, Pinder, Brown.