WARRINGTON Wolves will be happy with their day’s work, going into the start of the season next weekend with a convincing win over Wigan in Ben Westwood’s Testimonial game.
The daytime’s cracking snow-clearing efforts of more than 70 volunteers, including club director Lance James and Widnes Viking’s ex-Wolves hooker Jon Clarke, was rewarded with a decent workout that sets the tone for when the arch-rivals meet in Super League round two at the DW Stadium on February 8.
Although Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby suggested his men might be a little undercooked for the start of a campaign that is hoped will end at Old Trafford in October, the primrose and blue clan looked sharp, organised and keen to impress.
You have to be to ‘nil’ Wigan in any game.
Ben Harrison’s surging runs in his 40 minutes on the field stood out, as did Rhys Evans at right centre on the inside of Joel Monaghan.
But nobody looked out of place, including when Smith reeled off the rotations in the second period.
The likes of Westwood, Chris Hill and Adrian Morley had hardly had chance to get their shoulder in when Wolves opened their scoring account.
And they showed that what worked last year will work again this season when a hanging cross-field kick from Lee Briers was positioned superbly for Joel Monaghan to climb above Dominic Manfredi for the opening four points after two minutes. Brett Hodgson’s boot made it 6-0.
The 4,696 faithful in the stands, braving the winter cold, had to wait until the 39th minute for the next score.
Again it came on the right, with some sweet handling between Michael Monaghan, Hodgson and Briers sending Evans sliding over in the south east corner, although Hodgson was unable to convert.
That sent the teams in at half-time at 10-0 and Wolves had hardly looked threatened by a Wigan team missing the attacking threats of Sam Tomkins, Pat Richards, Sean O’Loughlin and Harrison Hansen.
However, Wolves could easily have been further ahead by the break.
Evans was held up over the line in the 16th minute, Adrian Morley had a rare try chalked off by fussy referee Ben Thaler for a forward pass from Micky Higham in the 21st minute and Hodgson had one ruled out for the same infringement in the 36th minute.
There were other moments where the last pass hit the floor in the slippery conditions as Wolves dominated both territory and possession, helped by a 6-3 penalty count in their favour that went on to finish 14-6.
Westwood, the man of the moment who entered the field with daughters Tyler and Gracie, made his presence felt, with one particular big hit sending England teammate Lee Mossop back into last week.
Another forward pass was picked up by the touch judge as Richie Myler’s long ball sent Chris Riley flying over 13 minutes into the second half.
But there was no denying Wolves a third try.
Myler was the architect again as he directed a grubber towards the sticks perfectly, bouncing back off the post to allow Hodgson to skilfully pick the ball up off his bootlaces and cross from two metres. He converted too as Wolves moved 16-0 ahead after 55 minutes.
Riley finally got his campaign off the mark in the 89th minute to wrap things up nicely.
The final hooter sounded to rousing chants of ‘Super Bennie Westwood’ as the back rower fluffed the final conversion, leaving only time for Wolves to lift their first piece of silverware of the season – the Betfred Challenge Cup.
It paves the way for a confident final week of preparations ahead of the visit of Castleford Tigers on February 3.
Cas coach Ian Millward, watching from the North Stand, will have plenty to think about on his journey home.
And groundsman Mel Jones will have a busy week too putting his sacred turf back in good order after 80 minutes of slipping and sliding that marked and honoured the 10 years of fabulous service to Wolves by the one and only Super Bennie Westwood.