SOMETHING wasn’t right at Widnes.
Within the opening five minutes of play in Friday’s Super League Round 21 encounter, the usual fizz and verve seemed to be lacking from Warrington.
Not so with Vikings, and to see them establish a winning lead came as no surprise as a result.
I was hoping there had been a deliberate ploy by Wolves to try and pace themselves in the exhausting heat, which would have been understandable.
But Wolves never really got going until the final quarter, which proved to be too late.
We’ve been here before and I thought Wolves would have learned from their Good Friday experience of throttling their arch-rivals.
On that day, Wolves lifted their play to such an intensity and ferocity that Denis Betts’ side could not cope with them.
The year before Wolves had come undone twice to poorer Vikings sides, including one reduced to 12 men for the entire second half of last August’s clash at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
On both occasions they faced greater enthusiasm.
I suggested at the time that Wolves didn’t appear to consider those fixtures ‘as big and meaningful’ as Widnes did, perhaps due to the increasing growth in rivalry with St Helens and Wigan Warriors in the Super League era contrasting with the loss of the Widnes match-up due to their Championship status.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Wolves did not try on Friday.
They did, but in fifth gear compared to the opposition’s sixth, with that little extra being found by the Widnes players from the sense of occasion, that this game counts like no other, almost that life depends on the result.
That’s what true ‘derby’ battles are like – frantic, chaotic, merciless, unrelenting, which is why form counts for little.
It is the same in a major cup match or play-off, when the outcome of your campaign truly does rest on the 80 minutes produced at that time.
From here until the end of the season, every game will be huge if Wolves are to achieve silverware.
They will not be able to afford another display like the one at Widnes.