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Ten years at The Halliwell Jones Stadium - part 9 - The road to Old Trafford
AS far as playing record goes, 2012 was Warrington’s best so far at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Only one home loss came during the regular rounds of Super XVII and there was one additional defeat in the play-offs before Wolves, who finished second to Wigan in the table, reached the Grand Final at Old Trafford for the first time.
Both falls on Warrington soil came against old foes St Helens, 28-16 in March and then 28-6 in September before Tony Smith’s men had the last laugh by beating Saints at Langtree Park to qualify for the final showdown with Leeds Rhinos.
Although fifth-place finishers Leeds came out on top in October to be crowned champions, Warrington had ruined them 35-18 in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in August to complete a run that had only presented one home tie - a 32-16 fifth round defeat of Bradford Bulls.
So, it meant for the fourth year in a row a Wolves campaign ended with silverware as the stadium effect continued to play its part on a club that had won nothing for the past 13 seasons at Wilderspool.
It was therefore quite a debut campaign in primrose and blue for Chris Hill, Trent Waterhouse and Stefan Ratchford, while it was positive for the club’s future that academy players Ben Currie and Brad Dwyer broke into a first team packed with international stars.
Attendances reached a new high too, with the selling of more than 8,000 season tickets a nod back to the record points scoring season of 2011.
For Super League games, the average ‘gate’ stood at 11,456 – 300 more than the previous term and the highest since the 1955/56 season that followed Wolves’ final Championship-winning campaign.
With the ground extensions at the east end opening at the start of the season, the capacity was raised from 13,024 to 15,000. The visit of Saints in March was a sell-out – Warrington’s largest home crowd for 38 years.
Probably the most enjoyable showing at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2012 was the 15-6 win against Catalan Dragons on July 9.
Wolves, whose much-depleted team had been smashed 48-24 at Salford a week earlier, needed the victory to stay in touch with table toppers Wigan and to build confidence ahead of the following week’s Challenge Cup semi final against Huddersfield.
Catalan looked title contenders themselves at the time and it was a highly enjoyable old-fashioned but fast-paced bash-up with bags of skill on show, tipped Warrington’s way with tries from Ben Westwood and Ryan Atkins.
Grand Final win shows promise
WARRINGTON Wolves’ under 20s team completed the double in 2012 with a 36-20 victory over Leeds Rhinos in the Valvoline Cup Final at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on September 29.
The Grand Final success followed capture of the League Leaders’ Shield, which was secured ahead of second-placed Salford with 17 wins from 20 outings.
Wolves team versus Leeds: Jordan Burke; Gene Ormsby, Rhys Evans, James Saltonstall, Rhys Williams; James Mendeika, Bobbie Goulding; Glenn Riley, Brad Dwyer, Ben Evans, James Laithwaite, Ben Currie, Matty Blythe. Subs: Brooke Broughton, Liam Hulme, Danny Bridge, Gavin Bennion.
Lee breaks records
LEE Briers was in record-breaking form in another momentous year for him.
He made his 400th appearance for the club in a 30-10 defeat of Wigan at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on August 11, while two months earlier he kicked his 1,000th goal for Wolves in a thrilling 37-18 success against Leeds Rhinos on a night that will also be remembered for wearing their ‘mostly orange’ charity shirt in aid of Motor Neurone Disease.
Earlier in the year the veteran stand off became the first Warrington player to pass the 2,500 points milestone for the club.
England makes first appearance
ANTHONY England made his Halliwell Jones Stadium debut in 2012.
The prop, a new signing for Wolves in 2014, was in the front row for the Featherstone Rovers side that lost 20-16 to Sheffield Eagles in the Championship Grand Final on September 30.
In the curtain raiser, Doncaster defeated Barrow 16-13 in the Championship One Grand Final.
No trouble taming Broncos
WOLVES’ biggest home win of the season was 50-10 against London Broncos.
It was the third year in a row that the club from the capital had suffered such fate.
In the corresponding fixture in 2011, Wolves secured their Super League record success of 82-6, while on the opening day of the 2010 season Chris Riley contributed five tries to a 58-0 trouncing.
Home tries in 2012
Joel Monaghan 15
Ryan Atkins 13
Chris Riley 11
Stefan Ratchford 8
Brett Hodgson 7
Richie Myler 6
Rhys Williams 3
Trent Waterhouse 3
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