WHAT ended up a runaway win was nothing of the sort for three quarters of Friday’s clash with Challenge Cup finalists Castleford.
Half of Wolves’ tally was rattled up in the final 21 minutes, enough scores being achieved to leapfrog Daryl Powell’s side in the table on points difference.
This season’s surprise package, with eight of Saturday’s likely Wembley line-up resting on the sidelines, gave Wolves plenty to think about but the home side always had superior threat with the ball, while in the main having the measure of Cas in defence.
With Richie Myler and Roy Asotasi dropped from the side that lost to Leeds Rhinos in the cup semi final, Tony Smith found more game management and fluency through Chris Bridge and Gareth O’Brien in the halves, along with magical Michael Monaghan at dummy half.
The problem early on was that wasteful Warrington saw too little of the ball.
Cas took a leaf out of Leeds’ book from six days earlier, punishing handling errors by camping on Wolves’ try line but unsuccessfully for stints of 15 and 29 tackles.
On the first set after each of those raids, Wolves broke away and scored through Ryan Atkins and O’Brien, with a third try added in the 26th minute by Bridge.
Perhaps the sight of Bridge limping out of the game soon after, and dominant Monaghan switching to stand off, gave Tigers fresh incentive.
They pulled four points back through a James Clare try and would have cut the gap to eight points shortly before half time had it not been for a sensational ball-and-all cover tackle by Rhys Evans on powerhouse forward Frankie Mariano.
With the help of the first couple of penalties conceded by Wolves the score became 18-10 when Oliver Holmes touched down for the Yorkshiremen.
That, and Liam Finn’s knock on when trying to kick, seemed to spark Wolves again and once Simon Grix smartly fed Evans for the first of two deserved tries the result never looked in doubt.
Despite missing out on Saturday’s final, Chris Bridge is the Challenge Cup top scorer this season with 66 points
Bridge’s tally includes 23 goals and five tries
Ryan Atkins is four games from reaching the 150-mark for Warrington Wolves
Joel Monaghan is two tries away from reaching his century in Super League for Warrington Wolves
Monaghan’s try against Castleford means he has scored 21 times in Super League this season
Super League Round 24, Friday, August 15, 2014
Warrington Wolves...48 Castleford Tigers...10
Wolves: Matty Russell; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Rhys Evans; Chris Bridge, Gareth O’Brien; Chris Hill, Michael Monaghan, Ben Harrison, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Anthony England, Paul Wood, James Laithwaite, Micky Higham.
Tigers: Ben Reynolds; Jordan Tansey, Michael Channing, Ashley Gibson, James Clare; Jamie Ellis, Liam Finn; Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Scott Wheeldon, Frankie Mariano, Weller Hauraki, Lee Jewitt. Subs: Nathan Massey, Oliver Holmes, Brad Day, Will Maher.
Scoring: Atkins try, 7mins, Bridge goal, 6-0; O’Brien try, 18mins, Bridge goal, 12-0; Bridge try, 23mins, Bridge goal, 18-0; Clare try, 27mins, 18-4; Holmes try, 46mins, Finn goal, 18-10; Evans try, 53mins, Ratchford goal, 24-10; England try, 59mins, Racthford goal, 30-10; Ratchford try, 66mins, Ratchford goal, 36-10; J Monaghan try, 73mins, Ratchford goal, 41-10; Evans try, 78mins, Ratchford goal, 48-10.
Referee: James Child
Penalties: Wolves 6 Tigers 4
Top Man: Michael Monaghan