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GUARDIAN VERDICT AND VIDEO: Warrington Wolves 14 Salford Red Devils 8
AS far as pre-season friendlies go, Wolves’ 14-8 victory over the re-booted Salford Red Devils was something for fans to get their teeth into.
The 3,022 brave souls who stood shivering on the terraces on Wednesday night were treated to a largely competitive and occasionally bad-tempered clash in terrible conditions.
And when a pre-season match contains a pitch-side melee, a yellow card and two drop goal attempts, neither side can be accused of not giving it their all.
Admittedly it did not start off as much of a contest.
Chris Hill and Ben Westwood, making their first appearances since the World Cup semi final, and Ben Currie stood out in the pack as Wolves completely dominated the first 30 minutes, with Stefan Ratchford chiming in from full back to excellent effect before he was forced off the field with an ankle injury after 25 minutes.
As half time approached, Salford fans could be forgiven for thinking that their ‘Red Devil-ution’ was still trapped in its early stages, with Dr Koukash and Brian Noble’s side struggling to drag themselves out of rugby league’s primordial soup or even inside Wolves’ 20m line.
Certainly Rangi Chase was doing his best Neanderthal impression, charging around the pitch and getting into scrapes with both of Wolves’ captains while simultaneously underperforming with the ball.
Handbags with Ben Westwood and a chicken-wing tackle on Michael Monaghan -that erupted into a full-scale shoving match before Chase saw yellow- early in the second half cemented the Salford playmaker as the pantomime villain, though his class did shine through during a mazy solo run that set up Francis Meli just before the break.
Once Tony Smith started making the most of his men on the bench, Wolves lost some of the fluency and control they had demonstrated so convincingly in the opening stages.
A Greg Johnson try from a fine Tim Smith kick completed the scoring on 54 minutes, but Salford were much improved after the restart and had Wolves firmly on the back foot as they went hunting for an equaliser that never quite materialised.
Wolves new boys Roy Asotasi, who was understandably quiet considering it must have been the worse playing conditions he has ever endured, and Anthony England made their home debuts without really standing out.
Off the bench, Glenn Riley showed glimpses of why Tony Smith has been tipping him for a big year, while Jordan Burke can not have done his first team chances any harm when stepping assuredly into Ratchford’s shoes after the first half injury.
Watch the press conference with Tony Smith after the match below.
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