WARRINGTON Wolves stormed into a first half lead against rivals St Helens at the Etihad.
Gene Ormsby opened the scoring before Rhys Evans touched down either side of a Chris Hill score and Alex Walmsley narrowed the deficit late in the half.
The returning Ben Westwood was immediately involved for Wolves when he forced St Helens full back Jonny Lomax back over his own try line.
From the resulting kick Wolves worked the ball left with Stefan Ratchford feeding Ryan Atkins wide out, but the former Wakefield man was forced out by the Saints defence.
Wolves continued to build pressure in Saints’ half and saw Chris Bridge held up narrowly short of the line after wriggling free of two would-be tacklers four minutes in.
Michael Monaghan picked up from dummy half and attempted a grubber, only to see the ball rebound back into his arms as he was tackled.
Joel Monaghan collected this time and span a pass out wide to the onrushing Ormsby, who dived into the corner and touched down superbly at full stretch. Chris Bridge was unable to add the extras.
With eight minutes played Wolves doubled their advantage, Westwood at the heart of the attack driving Tony Smith’s side forward until he was felled 10 yards out.
The ball was moved through hands until Ratchford fed Trent Waterhouse at close range and the Australian committed the Saints defence before popping it up for Evans to scoot over in the left corner. Bridge failed to convert from a difficult angle.
With 18 minutes played Bridge performed a spectacular piece of juggling to intercept and bring an end to Saints’ first foray into the Wolves half.
Wolves were able to pin Saints back in their half again with a Bridge penalty and an almost identical move to Evans’ try ended with Ratchford’s pass sailing out of the Welsh winger’s reach.
However, with 19 minutes of the half remaining Bridge delivered a clever backwards offload to Joel Monaghan and the centre, who broke a century of tries for the club last week, waltzed his way towards the line.
Monaghan was stopped 20 metres out but Westwood was on hand to keep the move alive and fed Hill for the powerful prop to crash over for his first try of the campaign. Bridge converted.
Saints’ Mose Masoe and James Roby were penalised when the former went over the top in a tackle on Michael Monaghan and again Wolves were given the opportunity to put the ball in St Helens territory.
The ball was worked to Bridge, whose grubber kick rebounded and bounced awkwardly before finding its way to Ratchford and the scrum half passed to Evans in acres of space on the left for his second try of the afternoon.
Referee Phil Bentham went to the video to check Bridge had not touched it following the rebound, which would have put Ratchford offside, but the mass of Wolves fans in the corner Evans had gone over were confident the move was fine and, on second glance, so was Bentham.
Bridge, who boasted an impressive conversion rate before today’s meeting, pulled his kick wide.
Saints put on their first meaningful attack on the half hour mark, which ended with Matt Dawson diving over in the corner, but Bentham spotted a knock on in the build up.
Two minutes later and Jordan Turner intercepted close to his own line and darted 50 metres into the Wolves half, but the centre was struggling for support and his loose pass hit the deck with Ryan Atkins the first to pounce.
Despite Wolves’ pressure, Saints again proved dangerous on the break away with Luke Walsh the man to sprint clear this time before delivering a high kick that Ormsby did well to reach first.
The winger was penalised for holding on as his Warrington teammates attempted to regroup and found himself in the sin bin.
Wolves looked like they had weathered the storm when Dawson went over only to again be brought back by Bentham, but eventually the numerical advantage told as Walsh fed Walmsley from close range and then converted from in front of the posts.