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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Warrington Wolves 6 Widnes Vikings 16
DID pride come before the fall?
You could have been forgiven for thinking that this game was wrapped up in a primrose and blue bow before kick off, with an injury-hit Widnes missing Jon Clarke, Gareth Hock and a host of other players.
But it is unlikely that Wolves – themselves missing key names – would have allowed themselves to get complacent, especially ahead of a ‘derby’ game against a side who had already beaten them this season and had a direct impact on their chances to finish top.
That explanation would also require you to completely ignore the fact that Wolves have not really played that well since the Challenge Cup semi final defeat to Hull FC almost a month ago.
A rollercoaster 40-30 win against Castleford and a scrappy defeat of Wakefield offered the warning signs to those willing to notice them, but Wolves’ record winning streak remained in tact simply because they had not come up against a side who played with as much heart and spirit as Widnes offered.
Even the Vikings’ most fervent fans admitted that this performance was something of an anomaly, as Widnes would have offered Wolves serious opposition even if the home team had been on their game.
And the hosts were far from their best, doing nothing to help their image as a fair weather team by persistently dropping the ball in the greasy conditions.
They were victims of their own frustration, each drop of the ball compounding the anxiety of the fans and, as a result, the players as they tried frantically to turn the tide.
Injury to Brett Hodgson from a head-high Hep Cahill challenge at half time did not help, though the resulting red card should have released some of the pressure that Wolves felt in the second half.
Playing three games in 12 days cannot have helped either, and Tony Smith was keen to point out that the two-week break will allow his players time for recuperation and himself time to recapture the spark that seems to have been snuffed out by that crushing defeat to Hull FC.
After watching this performance the fans will be hoping that he works quickly, as back-to-back defeats to a hugely improved Saints and away at Catalan would be no way to boost confidence ahead of the play-offs push.
The 16-6 defeat at The Halliwell Jones Stadium handed Widnes Vikings their first league double over their ‘derby’ rivals since 2004.
It is the first time all year that Warrington have been restricted to a single try.
Chris Bridge needs two more tries to reach a career century of touchdowns.
Joel Monaghan is currently fifth in the try-scoring charts at all levels of professional competition. Wigan’s Josh Charnley and Sheffield’s Menzie Yere lead the way with 37, Monaghan is on 27.
Brett Hodgson is 10th in the current goal-kicking rankings.
Super League Round 25
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Chris Bridge, Simon Grix, Chris Riley; Stefan Ratchford, Michael Monaghan; Paul Wood, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Tyrone McCarthy. Subs: Ben Harrison, Mike Cooper, Brad Dwyer, James Laithwaite.
Widnes: Rhys Hanbury; Jack Owens, Cameron Phelps, Frank Winterstein, Patrick Ah Van; Kevin Brown, Joe Mellor; Eamon O’Carroll, Grant Gore, Ben Kavanagh, Dave Allen, Macgruff Leuluai, Hep Cahill. Subs: Phil Joseph, Adam Lawton, Willie Isa, Danny Craven.
Scoring: Grix try, 17mins, Ratchford goal, 6-0; Owens try, 30mins, 6-4; Ah Van try, 55mins, Owens goal, 6-10; Owens try, 61mins, Owens goal, 6-16.
Penalties: Wolves 8 Widnes 5
Referee: Phil Bentham
Top Man: Micky Higham
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