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GUARDIAN VERDICT: St Helens 12 Warrington Wolves 22
EVERYTHING is coming together nicely at just the right time judging by Monday’s rare treat.
It is long lost in memory banks the last time Wolves were such comprehensive victors against their Super League rivals St Helens.
Although it finished 22-12, four further disallowed Warrington tries tells the story of dominance on the team’s first visit to Langtree Park.
Wolves were so impressive as they continue to build towards the Challenge Cup Final with Leeds Rhinos at Wembley on August 25 and beyond in what will now almost certainly be a home run in the play-offs thanks to putting five points between themselves and the leading chasers Saints and Catalan.
Tony Smith’s men looked so fresh, sharp, willing, focused, confident and smart in all their play and a Saints side that had not lost in seven successive matches could not handle the pressure imposed upon them from the start.
Warrington’s pack, even without the in-form Garreth Carvell and Ben Harrison , looked unstoppable at times with the irrepressible Ben Westwood , Adrian Morley and Chris Hill laying a platform for Lee Briers to strangle Saints with his immaculate tactical kicking.
Crucially, Wolves’ awesome defence backed up the superior tactical boot work to ensure Saints were constantly battling to get out of their own 20-metre zone.
It all led to a 10-0 start inside nine minutes before a bit of a wobble in the final 20 minutes of the first half, mainly due to conceding five successive penalties (four of them for high tackles).
Thankfully Saints’ first try from their first attack of Wolves’ line in the 24th minute acted as a warning and Wolves lifted their defensive ferocity to the point that the home team did not look like scoring again until Paul Wellens’ consolation.
In between, Chris Riley could have had a hat-trick but his 64th minute effort – his 24th of the season as Wolves’ top try scorer – did prove to be the killer as he moves ever closer to his 100th career score.
First win on St Helens soil against his former club for Lee Briers, who was making his 399th Wolves appearance. He needs two more tries for 150 in all Wolves matches.
Lowest number of points Saints have scored in a Super League game since 28-10 home defeat to Wigan Warriors on Good Friday, April 6.
Wolves ended Saints’ run of seven matches unbeaten.
Only Wolves’ fourth win in 42 Super League games against St Helens.
Second highest attendance in Langtree Park’s debut season, with the 15,728 crowd only being beaten by the 17,980 in attendance for Saints’ Good Friday clash with Wigan.
The match against Wigan will be Lee Briers’ 400th game for Warrington in a career spanning 15 years.
Super League Round 23
Monday, August 6
Saints: Paul Wellens; Tommy Makinson, Michael Shenton, Josh Jones, Francis Meli; Lance Hohaia, Jonny Lomax; Josh Perry, James Roby, Anthony Laffranchi, Tony Puletua, Chris Flannery, Jon Wilkin. Subs: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mark Flanagan, Paul Clough, Andy Dixon.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Tyrone McCarthy. Subs: Michael Monaghan, Simon Grix, Paul Wood, Mike Cooper.
Scoring: Hodgson try, 2mins, 0-4; Hill try, 9mins, Hodgson conversion, 0-10; Shenton try, 24mins, Makinson goal, 6-10; Waterhouse try, 42mins, Hodgson goal, 6-16; Riley try, 64mins, Hodgson goal, 6-22; Wellens try, 75mins, Makinson conversion, 12-22.
Pens: Saints 8 Wolves 3
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Top man: Ben Westwood