Text us your news! Start your message Warrington News and send any photos or videos to 80360
GUARDIAN VERDICT: St Helens 18 Warrington Wolves 36
ABILITY to repel nearly everything a team throws your way and to respond more productively is the stuff of champions.
And maybe now, after 35 practice matches this season, Wolves have completed their arsenal of armoury to leave themselves perfectly placed for one final mission with extraordinary stakes of ultimate triumph.
For it was in the first half of Saturday’s semi-final qualifier against one-time hoodoo rivals St Helens that Wolves paved the way for this week’s ‘Gold Trafford’ ticket rush.
With an energised mobile pack, they shut down the majority of the threat offered by danger men James Roby, Sia Soliola, Lance Hohaia and Jon Wilkin, soaking up an inevitable storm of attacks as a predatory Saints buoyed by their play-offs win at Warrington a fortnight earlier stalked a seventh successive trip to their Theatre of Nightmares.
It was in the gargantuan defensive effort that all the calf-busting running up those torturous Cronulla sand hills on the pre-season training camp in Australia last January came into their own as the mental strength of the team held firm.
And although Tony Smith’s men conceded three cleverly constructed tries from Tommy Makinson, Francis Meli and Paul Wellens, Wolves crossed on two of the four occasions they entered Saints’ 22-metre area to trail only 14-12 at the break.
That must have hurt the Red V men, with a wonderful try from Simon Grix the stinger two minutes before half time.
After Richie Myler had raced 50 metres to punish a poor Saints kick, wide-running Grix had a strong run on the third tackle of the set before offloads from nine players on tackle four left the home barricade full of holes.
Another Paul Wood offload allowed Michael Monaghan to feed Lee Briers and he placed a perfect pass into the path of Grix’s explosive angled run to give Wolves just the tonic they needed going into half time.
A second psychological blow was struck seven minutes into the second half after a destructive drive from Mike Cooper in what must have been his best game for the club.
He earned Briers time to place an accurate kick for Joel Monaghan to gather at the second attempt ahead of Meli to give Wolves, with the help of Brett Hodgson’s third conversion, a lead they never looked likely to lose.
As Saints prepared themselves for further strikes on their left, Wolves showed they could be just as lethal on the opposite flank where Richie Myler and Ryan Atkins worked openings for two tries from on-form Trent Waterhouse and a second of the night from Chris Riley – all in a devastating seven-minute spell.
It was seven minutes that paid homage to all the preceding hard graft in defence, the pack men getting over the top of their counterparts and the general kicking game of Briers, who, just like against Hull a week earlier, continually used his boot to pin Saints deep in their own half.
There was no way back for Saints from there and Briers knew it as he smiled his way through the final 10 minutes, not out of arrogance but through the sheer joy of this ambitious group of players accomplishing its capabilities.
It would answer his and multitudes of dreams to see that cheeky grin of his again on Saturday night.
Most points Wolves have scored in an away match against St Helens
The 18 points winning margin equals Wolves’ record for a game away to St Helens
Wolves’ fourth win in 12 play-offs matches during the Super League period
Chris Riley’s first try was his 100th for the club, with the tally now on 101 in 146 games since 2005. He needs one more try in the Grand Final to register his best return in one season
Brett Hodgson’s first conversion took him past the 1,000th points mark while in the British game. His penalty goal was his 100th conversion of the season
Ben Westwood made his 350th career appearance and needs three more tries to reach a ton of touch downs for Warrington
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 405 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 Qualifying Semi Final
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Saints: Paul Wellens; Tommy Makinson, Chris Flannery, Josh Jones, Francis Meli; Lance Hohaia, Jonny Lomax; Josh Perry, James Roby, Anthony Laffranchi, Tony Puletua, Mark Flanagan, Jon Wilkin. Subs: Sia Soliola, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paul Clough, Andy Dixon.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Ben Harrison, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Paul Wood, Mike Cooper.
Scoring: Makinson try, 11mins, 4-0; Riley try, 17mins, Hodgson goal, 4-6; Meli try, 26mins, 8-6; Wellens try, 35mins, Makinson goal, 14-6; Grix try, 38mins, Hodgson goal, 14-12; Joel Monaghan try, 47mins, Hodgson goal, 14-18; Waterhouse try, 60mins, Hodgson goal, 14-24; Waterhouse try, 63mins, Hodgson goal, 14-30; Riley try, 66mins, 14-34; Meli try, 71mins, 18-34; Hodgson penalty, 76mins, 18-36.
Pens: Saints 6 Wolves 7
Referee: Ben Thaler
Top man: Mike Cooper