IF THURSDAY night’s 24-24 draw is anything to judge by, keeping Michael Monaghan fit for the rest of the season will be key to progress in the play-offs.
The 34-year-old hooker, playing his 14th and final campaign, showed Huddersfield Giants and the worldwide audience that he still has the kind of magic in his head, feet and hands to rip up the best of defences.
Monas’ vision from dummy half is second to none and the way he worked with the forwards to give Giants’ big boys a grilling down the middle in the opening quarter laid a platform that Wolves should have done better with.
But Huddersfield managed to get a foothold and, inspired by their own star number nine, Shaun Lunt, rocked Wolves with three tries in nine minutes to take a 19-6 lead into the second half.
And Lunt’s break on a kick return handed Jodie Broughton an 80m clear run home three minutes into the second period as the visitors took full command.
Poor Micky Higham, taking up the dummy half creativity during Monaghan’s breather, spent the majority of his spell back-pedalling.
So it was after a penalty hard earned by Ben Westwood, and with half-back Gareth O’Brien inputting some telling contributions, that a fresh-legged Monaghan was back on the field helping to enhance energy levels and participate in a stunning fightback.
Remarkably, three tries in 11 minutes – two of them from the rampaging beast Ben Harrison – put Wolves back in front at 24-23.
Three incidents, while Wolves had momentum and the stadium was rocking, ultimately led to the spoils being shared and hopes of finishing the season in top spot being lost.
Rhys Evans’ lost possession in attempting to score with a spectacular dive led to him needing eight minutes of medical attention before departing on a stretcher.
That delay took some sting out of Wolves’ ferocity, but also electing not to kick for goal with a closerange penalty kept the door open for Danny Brough to snatch the eventual match-levelling one-pointer.
In the build-up to that, Leroy Cudjoe got away with an intercept from an offside position to crucially earn the last bite of the cherry.
It was high octane stuff, dramatically entertaining but frustratingly a missed opportunity.
Only the second draw at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, the first being 22-22 with Bradford Bulls on April 27, 2004
The ninth draw for Wolves in the Super League era, the others being: Sheffield, 18- 18, home, 1998; Wigan, 17-17, home, 1999; St Helens, 28-28, home, 2001; Leeds, 24-24, away, 2001; St Helens, 30-30, home, 2003; Bradford, 22-22, home, 2004; Hull, 20-20, away, 2012; Wigan, 17-17, away, 2013
Only the third draw with Huddersfield in 226 meetings
Gareth O’Brien’s first conversions of the season for Wolves
Warrington Wolves...24 Huddersfield Giants...24
Wolves: Russell; Ormsby, J Monaghan, Atkins, Evans; O’Brien, Myler; Hill, M Monaghan, Harrison, Westwood, Waterhouse, Sn Grix. Subs: Higham, Wood, Laithwaite, England.
Giants: St Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Murphy, Broughton; Brough, Robinson; Crabtree, Lunt, Kaufusi, Patrick, Lawrence, Bailey. Subs: Kopczak, Faiumu, Ta’ai, Fairbank.
Scoring: O’Brien, 23mins, O’Brien goal, 6-0; Bailey try, 27mins, Brough goal, 6-6; Tai’ai try, 32mins, Brough goal, 6-12; Lunt try, 36mins, Brough goal, 6-18; Brough drop goal, 40+mins, 6-19; Broughton try, 43mins, 6-23; Atkins try, 57mins, O’Brien goal, 12-23; Harrison try, 63mins, O’Brien goal, 18-23; Harrison try, 68mins, O’Brien goal, 24-23; Brough drop goal, 80+mins, 24-24.
Referee: Ben Thaler
Penalties: Wolves 6 Giants 4
Top Man: Michael Monaghan