THURSDAY'S clash with the nearest and dearest had a certain sense of déjà vu about it.

For the second time this season, Wolves were expected to blow away an understrength Widnes side at The Halliwell Jones Stadium and, for the second time, they struggled to do so.

To their credit, though, they eventually found the right gear and the victory was comfortable in the end.

The talk before the game was about this not being the ‘dead rubber’ it appeared to be, but the fayre on show for most of the night backed up what everybody had been saying.

Had it not been for the balmy July temperatures, it could have easily been mistaken for the annual December friendly between the two neighbours.

For many reasons, however, it was a vital exercise for The Wire as they prepare for the unknown of the Middle 8s.

Matty Russell looked sharp on his return from injury, as his try just 1 minute 44 seconds into the game showed, while Kevin Brown got vital miles on the clock after a similar absence.

Peta Hiku also needs as much time as possible to get used to his new surroundings, but his virtuoso showing indicates he’s doing just fine on that score.

That said, there was plenty of apprehension among the Wolves faithful during the first half, and not just when Ben Currie crumpled to the ground holding his surgically-repaired knee.

Indiscipline aplenty and errors galore, it looked as if all the good work done in the past fortnight had come crashing down.

Joe Mellor, who was superb for Widnes, danced through a bewildered defence to give the visitors a half-time lead and nobody watching the game could have argued they did not deserve it.

Even at the start of the second half, more silly errors meant Wolves were repelling Widnes pressure.

However, after the introduction of Morgan Smith, The Wire found their spark.

If Dec Patton’s cross-field boot for Hiku to soar high to catch and ground was perfectly judged, his cheeky reverse kick for Kevin Brown to score was a thing of beauty.

Wolves were playing with more zip, typified by a blistering right-edge move to send Russell over for his second.

The next meeting between these two sides will have much more at stake. Let’s hope the main event is better than the dress rehearsal!


. Wolves’ eighth consecutive home victory over Widnes.

. The last eight meetings on all grounds between the two sides have ended in Warrington victories.

. At 1min 44secs, Matty Russell’s first try was The Wire’s fastest of the season in all competitions.

. Four of Kevin Brown’s six tries in all competitions this season have come against the Vikings.

. Peta Hiku scores his first try for Warrington.


Super League Round 23, Thursday, July 20, 2017

Warrington Wolves…22 Widnes Vikings…6

Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Matty Russell, Peta Hiku, Ryan Atkins, Tom Lineham; Declan Patton, Kevin Brown; Mike Cooper, Daryl Clark, Ashton Sims, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, Joe Philbin. Subs: George King, Andre Savelio, Ben Currie, Morgan Smith.

Vikings: Corey Thompson; Tom Armstrong, Ed Chamberlain, Charly Runciman, Stefan Marsh; Joe Mellor, Brad Walker; James Chapelhow, Jordan Johnstone, Gil Dudson, Matt Whitley, Tom Olbison, Hep Cahill. Subs: Alex Gerrard, Greg Burke, Danny Walker, Ted Chapelhow.

Scoring: Russell try, 2mins, 4-0, Mellor try, 16mins, Marsh goal, 4-6; Hiku try, 52mins, Ratchford goal, 10-6; Brown try, 60mins, Ratchford goal, 16-6; Russell try, 63mins, Ratchford goal, 22-6.

Penalties: Wolves 7 Vikings 7.

Referee: Robert Hicks.

Attendance: 9,895.

Guardian man of the match: Peta Hiku.