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Warrington Wolves coach promises improvement ahead of play-offs
WOLVES boss Tony Smith has expressed disappointment in the ‘atrocious’ handling performance of his side following the shock 16-6 defeat to Widnes Vikings at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Smith watched in frustration as his team’s persistent handling errors proceeded to gift the game to a Widnes side coming off a five-match losing streak and missing some of their most important players.
He pledged to return with a much-improved side after the forthcoming two-week break.
“We were dreadful with the ball,” he said.
“I was quite pleased with the defensive efforts, but we had to do way too much of it.
“We were atrocious with the ball, we didn’t apply pressure in conditions like that and I thought tactically they did.
“They made a lot of handling errors as well, they invited into the game, but their kicking game was terrific compared to ours.
“I was sitting there envious of their kicking game and they controlled it well.
“Three games in 12 days for us and Widnes probably isn’t a great combination for good games, that’s no excuse that’s just the way it is.
“Rugby League isn’t made these days for playing consecutive games in quick succession, so the break will be welcome for us to freshen up and come back for a big match against Saints.”
It is fair to say that Wolves were their own worst enemy in the wet conditions, barely able to keep hold of the ball in a second half that the impressive Widnes controlled quite comfortably.
Tries from Patrick Ah Van and a double from the excellent Jack Owens were more than enough to cancel out Simon Grix’s first half effort, and Wolves’ errors prevented them from building pressure after the break.
“I think the completion rate was 52% in the second half and maybe 63% in the first,” said Smith.
“If you are making your errors on the fifth tackle, that’s no drama, you’ve had a good crack with the ball.
“But if you are making them right after you have received a penalty you have shot yourself in the foot and that is what we were doing there today.
“A lot of our best players of the year so far were guilty of some of the biggest errors there tonight and that is the way it goes sometimes.
“We can handle that and we can applaud Widnes for their efforts.
“They were very courageous when a man down and they worked really hard and hung in there.
“But I think at some stage, and at the right time, we need to investigate balls and see whether the balls we are using are enhancing our sport or not.
“I know the ball was the same for both teams and that is why I don’t want to make too much of it, but they are not great quality handling balls.”
The frustration of fans in the stands was almost matched by the players on the pitch, though Smith was keen to point out that his side had suffered a similar defeat in the week before Wembley last season and that did not mean his side were not ready for an assault on the Grand Final.
“The frustration from the players made things worse” he said.
“You could see it in the players, the harder they tried the worse it got.
“If they weren’t trying I’d be worried, but they worked harder and harder and got more frustrated with each other and themselves.
“In the corresponding game last year we got smacked by London, and it did us some good.
“We got to play in the big game the following week, we don’t get to do that this time.
“But we handle those kicks in the teeth pretty well.
“They are horrible when they happen but I wouldn’t like to think we’ll have another one like that any time soon.”
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