WOLVES leapt above Castleford Tigers in the race for Super League play-offs positions courtesy of tonight’s hefty Round 24 success at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Tony Smith’s men send the Tigers to Wembley in wounded manner after piling on the points in the second half to climb to fourth in the ladder on points difference.
Cas, with eight of next weekend’s likely Challenge Cup Final side sat on the sidelines, took a leaf out of Leeds Rhinos’ books from last week by attempting to make the Wolves defence crack under long periods of pressure.
That was specially so in the opening quarter but Wolves’ resistance was stubborn and they looked threatening with every attack in front of a subdued home following in the 8,391 crowd.
Tony Smith's decision to bring Chris Bridge and Gareth O’Brien back into the playmaking department as half backs brought more fluency as a result and continued to do so after the former limped out of the game at the 30th minute mark.
Just like against Leeds last week, Wolves found themselves vigorously defending their own line for the opening five minutes.
Then on their second set with the ball O’Brien’s kick ahead bounced backwards into the path of Atkins and after dribbling ahead he pounced for the opening try in the seventh minute. Bridge converted for 6-0.
Again Cas played the pressure game, pummelling the Warrington line for three successive sets without joy against a hard-working Wolves rearguard.
And just like early on, as soon as Wolves got their hands on the ball again they scored.
Michael Monaghan threw a dummy and darted clear on a 40-metre run before putting the supporting O’Brien on a spurt to the line. Bridge’s extras made it 12-0 after 19 minutes.
Bridge showed the strength of a forward and pace of a back as he exploded over from first receiver and then add the goal kick to move Wolves 18-0 ahead in the 26th minute.
Four minutes later Bridge hobbled off, with Michael Monaghan switching to stand off and Micky Higham being introduced off the bench at hooker.
Cas grabbed four points back in the 33rd minute, James Clare spectacularly diving over by the corner flag albeit off a pass that was two metres forward from half back Jamie Ellis.
The visitors would have hauled back another six points had it not been for a wonderful cover tackle from Rhys Evans on Frankie Mariano after the second rower had broken clear and skirted Matty Russell with ease.
But Evans chased back, covered the ball and held the bigger man up over the line in a remarkable show of defensive skill and strength.
Wolves conceded their first penalty four minutes into the second period but nothing came from it for a Cas side that needed to score first to stay in the contest.
Evans again prevented a score with a scrambling effort on Oliver Holmes but moments later the Cas back rower somehow got the ball down when it looked as though he would be held up over the line by Michael Monaghan and Anthony England. Liam Finn’s conversion cut the gap to eight points after 47 minutes.
Finn’s spill on the last tackle turned the ball over to Warrington on the halfway line and they made it count.
Simon Grix’s wide pass, which looked to be forward, found Evans at pace to scorch over in the corner in the 53rd minute and Stefan Ratchford’s towering conversion restored the 14-point cushion.
And when England crashed over for his third try of the season off a Higham inside pass in the 59th minute it was game over, with Ratchford’s improvement moving the score on to 30-10.
It was good to see Russell hunting from deep in the manner Brett Hodgson used to as he accepted a Michael Monaghan pass to put Ratchford over in the 68th minute. And another wonderful Ratchford punt from the touchline took Wolves on to 36-10.
Joel Monaghan got in on the act in the 76th minute, thundering over from a Chris Hill pass after an O’Brien grubber had initially been blocked. Ratchford converted.
And Evans capped an impressive display with the final score, capitalising on Higham’s grubber kick. Ratchford’s fifth success from as many conversions rounded things off.
Wolves: Matty Russell; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Rhys Evans; Chris Bridge, Gareth O’Brien; Chris Hill, Michael Monaghan, Ben Harrison, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Anthony England, Paul Wood, James Laithwaite, Micky Higham.
Tigers: Ben Reynolds; Jordan Tansey, Michael Channing, Ashley Gibson, James Clare; Jamie Ellis, Liam Finn; Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Scott Wheeldon, Frankie Mariano, Weller Hauraki, Lee Jewitt. Subs: Nathan Massey, Oliver Holmes, Brad Day, Will Maher.
Referee: James Child