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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Warrington Wolves 24 Hull FC 12
IT could yet prove to be that St Helens have done Wolves a massive favour in this play-offs campaign.
Saints’ display at The Halliwell Jones Stadium a fortnight ago highlighted some faults in Wolves’ approach to intense play-offs confrontations.
Judging by the response in eliminating Hull it appears fresh breath has been exhaled into Old Trafford hopes and the boys are well and truly back on track.
Wolves won by making less mistakes with the ball then their Humberside guests. And by backing that up with strong defence and a superb kicking game they unlocked the lid to the Grand Final winner’s formula.
They can now build on those foundations.
Just as Tony Smith had promised, Wolves coped better with early adversity and pressure from handling mistakes but once they found their rhythm they rarely looked in danger of losing against a committed but ultimately outclassed Hull outfit.
And in Penrith Panthers 2003 NRL Grand Final winner Trent Waterhouse, Wolves had the star act who Smith said did his own work and that of missing Westwood as well.
Play-off campaigns are built on such displays of sheer grit.
It meant the ground work was done for Lee Briers to kick Hull to death, pinning them back for much of the 80 minutes.
And then, unlike the previous week, they patiently waited for Hull to fold under the pressure and capitalised on their mistakes for a deserved 12-0 half-time lead.
A lovely piece of vision from Stefan Ratchford brought the try of the game and the one that probably ended Hull hopes.
There was nothing on when he initially shrugged off one defender from a standing start but as he escaped he saw nobody at home behind the defensive line and kicked ahead to touch down after a fortuitous rebound off a post.
Again, champion teams need players who produce something from nothing.
After Hodgson supported a break from the impressive Myler to complete Wolves’ scoring Hull started to chance their arm more as they chased the game but they had left it too late.
Wolves’ third win in 11 play-offs matches.
Lowest ‘gate’ for a play-offs match at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, falling below Saints 10,190 on September 15; Leeds 12,074 on September 30, 2011; Huddersfield 10,006 on September 16, 2011; Huddersfield 8,050 on September 18, 2010; Hull 12,243 on September 24, 2005.
Paul Wood’s 300th career appearance, incorporating 296 for Warrington and four at international level.
After his try and four goals against Hull, Brett Hodgson needs one point to reach 1,000 while in the British game.
Ben Westwood needs one appearance to reach 350 for his career and three more tries will also see him reach a ton of touch downs for Warrington.
Chris Riley needs one more try for his Wolves 100, currently on 99 in 145 games since 2005.
Micky Higham needs one try to reach a career century of touch downs. Higham's total of 99 consists of 24 for Leigh (1999-2000), 35 for St Helens (2001-2005), 17 for Wigan (2006-2008), 21 for Warrington (2009-2012), one for England (2008-2010) and one for England under 21s (2001).
Lee Briers needs two tries for his Wolves 150, having scored 148 in 404 games since 1997. One goal will see Briers also reach the 1,000 mark for his career, 940 for Warrington, 24 for St Helens, 29 for Wales and 6 for Great Britain.
Super League Play-offs Preliminary Semi Final
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Simon Grix, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Harrison. Subs: Michael Monaghan, Tyrone McCarthy, Mike Cooper, Paul Wood.
Hull: Richard Horne; Jamie Foster, Jordan Turner, Kirk Yeaman, Tom Briscoe; Brett Seymour, Aaron Heremaia; Liam Wats, Danny Houghton, Andy Lynch, Willie Manu, Joe Westerman, Martin
Aspinwall. Subs: Ben Crooks, Mark O'Meley, Chris Green, Jay Pitts.
Scoring: Waterhouse try, 11mins, Hodgson goal, 6-0; Myler try, 39mins, Hodgson conversion, 12-0; Ratchford try, 54mins, Hodgson goal, 18-0; Hodgson try, 63mins, Hodgson conversion, 24-0; Briscoe try, 68mins, Foster conversion, 24-6; Crooks try, 75mins, Foster goal, 24-12.
Pens: Wolves 6 Hull 6
Referee: Richard Silverwood
Top man: Trent Waterhouse