WARRINGTON Wolves have delivered their best half of rugby this season to lead the Cheshire ‘derby’ in convincing style at half time.
Is it any coincidence that the sun is shining bright on The Halliwell Jones Stadium?
Wolves’ players, who keep saying they have been crying out for a dry pitch, were scoring at a rate of a point a minute in the opening 18 minutes producing a whirlwind start that has not previously been seen by Tony Smith’s men this season.
In contrast, Vikings do not look as if they have got off the plane back from Catalan Dragons, where they disappointed last week.
Encouragingly for Wolves, they have scored more points in this first half than in any other entire home game this season.
At the heart of it was Michael Monaghan, dominating around the ruck and giving half backs Gareth O’Brien and Stefan Ratchford the chance to shine.
O’Brien, replacing the injured Richie Myler against the club he spent loan time with in 2012, was instrumental in the opening three tries and scored the opener himself after three minutes.
He angled a run to the line from first receiver after Ratchford’s weaving run had left the Vikings defence scrambling.
Chris Bridge’s conversion gave Warrington a perfect start.
Although Vikings, who had welcomed back Cameron Phelps, Alex Gerrard, Danny Galea and Willie Isa, then enjoyed some territorial dominance thanks to their long kicking game.
But conceding successive penalties for lying on at the play-the-ball allowed Warrington to strike again.
O’Brien trickled a kick to the corner for Joel Monaghan and the Australian winger was able to pounce for his seventh try of the season before the ball ran dead.
Bridge added the touchline conversion for 12-0 in as many minutes.
Then O’Brien delivered the play that allowed Wolves to launch another raid.
His high kick caused Rhys Hanbury problems in the sun and after he knocked on attempting to play the ball Wolves got over again three tackles after the scrum.
A powerful Chris Hill run took some stopping and Michael Monaghan spotted a hole to plough over from dummy half from a few strides out. Bridge’s extras moved Wolves 18-0 ahead after 18 minutes.
Kevin Brown threw a pass intended for Jack Owens straight into touch as Vikings threatened to hit back after 22 minutes.
A penalty earned by Hanbury when Ryan Atkins held him down in the tackle too long provided Denis Betts’ men with an opportunity.
They came close when Paddy Flynn hunted down Brown’s kick under pressure from Matty Russell and Rhys Evans but the winger knocked on inches from the dead-ball line.
Wolves thought they had extended the lead moments later when Russell fed Rhys Evans over by the corner flag but video referee Ian Smith called an obstruction on a defender by Trent Waterhouse in the build-up.
After Hanbury was held up short in a strong defensive set on Wolves’ own line, Smith’s side counter-attacked spectacularly.
Micky Higham, continuing Michael Monaghan’s good work, ducked two tackles and darted away from his own 40 metre line before handing on to Bridge in support.
The centre had defenders closing in but his decision to dummy and go it alone proved correct as he just had the legs to get to the line before Jack Owens could get to him.
Bridge made it four from four to convert his own try and put Wolves in the clear ascendancy at 24-0.
Wolves: Matty Russell; Joel Monaghan, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Rhys Evans; Gareth O’Brien, Stefan Ratchford; Chris Hill, Michael Monaghan, Roy Asotasi, Trent Waterhouse, James Laithwaite, Ben Harrison. Subs: Micky Higham, Ben Currie, Glenn Riley, Ben Evans.
Vikings: Rhys Hanbury; PADDY Flynn, Cameron Phelps, Chris Dean, Jack Owens; Kevin Brown, Danny Craven; Alex Gerrard, Jon Clarke, Phil Joseph, Danny Galea, Danny Tickle, Hep Cahill. Subs: Willie Isa, Paul Clough, Lloyd White, Ben Kavanagh.
Referee: Ben Thaler