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GUARDIAN VERDICT AND VIDEO: Warrington Wolves 8 St Helens 38
A SAINTS win on Warrington’s home ground should not have been a surprise to anyone, but the manner was upsetting to most in the primrose-and-blue corner.
Wolves have only managed one triumph in 10 years at The Halliwell Jones Stadium against their arch-rivals, but Thursday’s loss was more reminiscent of previous regimes than the past five seasons under Tony Smith.
And the performance of a team confirmed by Smith afterwards as being deliberately undercooked for this first game of a long journey surmounted to the club’s worst result on the opening day of a season for 88 years.
It is unfair to judge players on this performance in terms of what is to come, but the result does little to raise confidence in a squad that has lost key personnel and is clearly in need of time to grow.
It should be remembered there were key players missing, with packmen Simon Grix, Ben Harrison and Paul Wood in the stands, as well as new full back Matty Russell whose absence meant starting with a second or third-choice half-back pairing.
Smith pointed to improvements needed in Wolves’ kicking game and play-the-ball speed.
His pack was certainly overhauled, there was a lack of sharpness in all that the players did and cohesion was missing for the majority of the 80 minutes.
Leadership on the field did not look strong enough and neither did goal-line defence, but they are areas Smith will be confident of sorting out in the weeks to come.
As for the best of the home side’s soldiers, Trent Waterhouse got through a stack of work and looked the least ‘undercooked’.
And the shape and structure seemed to improved when Gareth O’Brien was introduced off the bench in the 31st minute, slotting in at stand off when Michael Monaghan switched to hooker.
By then, despite a bright start courtesy of Joel Monaghan’s first try in the 99th second, Wolves were 18-4 behind and rattled.
Saints, with a determined defence, rarely looked in trouble, inspired by their debutant scrum half Luke Walsh, a former deputy to Andrew Johns at Newcastle Knights.
Highest number of points conceded and widest margin of defeat on the first day of a season since the 52-12 loss to Wigan at Central Park in August, 1926
Biggest crowd for season opener at The Halliwell Jones Stadium since the inaugural visit of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 10 years ago, when the attendance was 14,206
Wolves have managed only one win from 16 home dates with St Helens at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, including one play-off defeat
Richie Myler made his 100th Wolves appearance
Super League Round 1, Thursday, February 13, 2014
Warrington Wolves...8 St Helens...38
Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Joel Monaghan, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler; Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Roy Asotasi, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Currie. Subs: Ben Evans, James Laithwaite, Gareth O’Brien, Glenn Riley.
Saints: Jonny Lomax; Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Mark Percival, Adam Swift; Gary Wheeler, Luke Walsh; Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin, Willie Manu, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Anthony Laffranchi, Sia Soliola, Josh Jones, Paul Wellens.
Scoring: Joel Monaghan try, 99secs, 4-0; Makinson try, 12mins, Walsh goal, 4-6; Roby try, 16mins, Walsh goal, 4-12; Amor try, 19mins, Walsh goal, 4-18; Walsh penalty goal, 40+mins, 4-20; Laffranchi try, 42mins, Walsh goal, 4-26; Joel Monaghan try, 69mins, 8-26; Swift try, 74mins, Walsh goal, 8-32; Walsh try, 79mins, Walsh goal, 8-38.
Pens: Wolves 8 Saints 5
Referee: Phil Bentham
Wolves’ Top Man: Trent Waterhouse
Watch the video below to see Tony Smith give his verdict on Wolves' opening loss to St Helens.