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SPIRIT OF 55: A tale of two halves
11:05am Monday 23rd July 2012 in Wolves news
At half time I was already composing my report for this match in my head.
I was thinking this was another one of those matches that was a sign of how much the team has progressed over the last few years.
This game had potential banana skin written all over it for a few reasons.
Coming after the lord mayors show of the Challenge Cup semi-final, being away from home against an enthusiastic Castleford side in decent form and going into the game with a few players missing, including the talismanic playmaker Lee Briers.
Even just a couple of years ago it would have been one of those games that we might have half expected them to lose, but instead this team produce a first half display of excellence at both ends of the pitch.
Castleford must have wondered how on earth they were quite as far as 30 points behind at the break and it would’ve been interesting to see what Phil Clarke’s margin meter would’ve made of the contest, with Castleford enjoying at least an even share of possession and territory.
Slick, accurate passing, excellent lines of run and fantastic support play saw Wire produce five tries, all goaled by the ever reliable Hodgson – which always makes the score look even more emphatic.
At the other end that familiar desperation in scrambling defence was at evidence once again.
When David Solomona went over early in the second half it looked as if it would just be a matter of how big a score Warrington would run up.
Castleford and to an extent Wolves themselves had other ideas though.
Huge credit must go to Castleford for ignoring the scoreboard and keeping their enthusiasm, which along with the introduction of Danny Orr and Rangi Chase playing at his mercurial best gave Warrington just about all they could handle for the rest of the game.
Only the players themselves can know if there was any element of ‘putting the queue on the rack’ and losing focus.
Two things they will definitely want to improve on was the number of missed tackles and the amount of handling errors in their own half.
Overall it turned out to be a fairly even game, but rather than swapping scores throughout the game they exchanged scoring streaks, Warrington opening with 34 points and Castleford replying with 26.
Neither team was ever that dominant to justify those scoring streaks, but sometimes tries come with pressure and sometimes they don’t.
So far this season Wire are playing with the appearance of a team that is desperate not to peak too soon, like a middle distance runner sitting on the shoulder of the leaders, not wanting to hit the front too soon for fear of being caught before the line.
Tony Smith continues to make the most of the incredible strength in depth of the squad, by giving virtually every player rests at times.
Hopefully this will result in a confident and relatively fresh squad at Wembley and for the play-offs.
One added bonus of the Wembley appearance is that it gives the players that little bit more of a reason to be desperate to earn their place in the side, just when they thought they couldn’t possibly be any more desperate to be first choice.
It wasn’t so long ago that if Briers didn’t play they we looked woefully short at half back, now the options in those positions include Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Stefan Ratchford, Chris Bridge , Brett Hodgson, Simon Grix and Michael Monaghan as well as Briers himself.
Even more pleasing is that that sort of embarrassment of riches is similar for every position.
Only time will tell whether the team are timing their peak to perfection or they are not quite good enough to be champions this year, right now I still believe they are going to be good enough on the big occasions.