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FULL TIME, PICTURES ADDED: Warrington Wolves 10 St Helens 22
Chris Bridge celebrates the first of his two tries on his return to the side, giving Wolves some hope at the end of the first half. Picture by Mike Boden
WOLVES’ abysmal home record against St Helens continues.
And a 14th defeat from 15 clashes at The Halliwell Jones Stadium was nothing more than Wolves deserved.
They were out-enthused from start to finish by Saints, whose eager defence had the measure of Wolves’ attack throughout.
What has happened to the Wolves team that ran in points for fun over the past two seasons?
Tony Smith’s side have now managed just two tries in three halves of rugby and it is clear they are missing the craftsmanship and direction of the injured Lee Briers.
Saints got off to a blistering and clinical 14-0 start and then found they could disrupt Warrington’s attacking options by getting in the faces of runners and playmakers.
Loose passes, forward passes and knock ons all spoilt opportunities that arose in the second quarter, and there was no potency early in the second half when the next team to score was the crucial period in the game.
Saints had the answers to the questions when it mattered.
They drew first blood after five minutes when a short pass on the narrow side from Jonny Lomax enabled Jordan Turner to fire over from 10 metres.
That chance came after Wolves gave up possession on Saints’ 40-metre line with a forward pass from Chris Bridge.
The visitors doubled their lead six minutes later when Lance Hohaia dummied a pass to Sia Soliola and managed to drag Richie Myler over the line with him.
In the build-up, Bridge had again been involved but his timely dropped interception had saved a try in a three-on-one situation.
Lomax’s conversion put Saints 10-0 ahead and it was reward for their early domination of territory and possession.
Joel Monaghan was held up inches short after he tried to beat the cover into the corner as Wolves finally got out of their own half on 14 minutes.
And then successive moves broke down with extra men on the left as Ade Gardner made good judgement calls in defence and forced a knock on from Ryan Atkins in the first instance and a forward pass from Brett Hodgson on the next attack.
When Hodgson knocked on a kick return in a hefty challenge from Soliola it gave Saints the chance to raid again.
A penalty for offside helped and it paved the way for Francis Meli to somehow wriggle round Stefan Ratchford from a long Lomax pass and dive over in the corner with an inch to spare. Lomax was off target with the extras but Saints led 14-0 with 22 minutes gone.
A catalogue of errors, albeit under pressure from a highly energised St Helens defence, ruined a stack of further Warrington chances.
A poor long ball from Myler failed to find Chris Riley on the left on the second tackle when nothing had looked on in any case.
Finally, Bridge showed his teammates how it is done.
The right centre popped up on the opposite flank to receive a Myler pass from a scrum and he angled a run to the line from 20 metres out. Hodgson’s missed conversion was the last kick of the half, with Saints leading 14-4.
The opening stages of the second half were an absolute arm wrestle, with kicking, chasing and defending for all your worth the call to arms for both sides.
It was a 30-metre penalty goal from Lomax in the 61st minute that broke the deadlock after Tyrone McCarthy was adjudged to have committed a high tackle on James Roby.
It was Roby who came up with the killer try in the 71st minute after Chris Hill lost possession in a tackle from Anthony Laffranchi. Lomax’s extras made it 22-4.
Bridge's second try from a Myler break was nothing more than a 79th minute consolation converted by Hodgson.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler; Paul Wood, Michael Monaghan, Chris Hill, Ben Westwood, Mike Cooper. Subs: Garreth Carvell, Micky Higham, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Currie.
Saints: Jonny Lomax; Ade Gardner, Jordan Turner, Josh Jones, Francis Meli; Lance Hohaia, Anthony Laffranchi, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sia Soliola, Willie Manu, Mark Flanagan. Subs: Tony Puletua, Paul Clough, Anthony Walker, Joe Greenwood.