HOW could they?

The Wire, supposedly fighting for their Super League lives, almost blew a 20-point lead against Championship outfit London Broncos at the Trailfinders Sports Ground on Saturday.

The woeful start, with Wolves trailing 14-0 after 17 minutes, was embarrassing enough.

It is only fair to give credit for turning the shambles around, thanks mainly to the comeback of Kurt Gidley, to lead 40-20 with nine minutes remaining.

But, with an automatic place in the 2018 top flight far from guaranteed, it is almost unforgivable that The Wire players clocked off after Gidley's exit and found themselves desperately defending a two-point advantage in the last two minutes.

Only a 50:50 refereeing call, when Ryan Atkins was not penalised for a late tackle, prevented Broncos being handed a potential match-levelling 35-metre shot at goal in the final throes of a match packed with injustice.

Two of Wolves' tries came on the back of infringements not spotted by the officials, although they did have a Stefan Ratchford contest killer wrongly ruled out in the 71st minute, but nobody could have argued with full-time London's efforts deserving something from the game.

In the end, with seven tries for each team, just one of Dec Patton's six conversions proved to be the difference. It is a depressing indictment of how far this team has slipped from being just two arm stretches away from the club's greatest season of the Super League era in 2016.

Wolves' head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith and his backroom team have been afforded time to turn around a campaign that has been as shorn of highlights as a trainspotter's trip to Warrington Arpley Station.

Make no mistake, Smith's position is in serious jeopardy now.

Whether it was the long trip down south, the artificial pitch, the dimly lit playing area, ring-rust from a weekend off, tired bodies or whatever, the team was still on the bus when some awful defending led to enthusiastic London's opening rally.

One-on-one misses, shooting out of the line and ball-watching all proved fatal as London's half-backs, hat-trick man Jarrod Sammut and French international William Barthau, ran rings around their shell-shocked visitors.

Gidley, after seven weeks out with a broken bone in his leg and 'underdone' for his comeback, turned the tide as a 19th-minute replacement for teenager Morgan Smith at dummy half.

The evergreen schemer boosted enthusiasm levels and directed all traffic down the middle, with subsequent fast play-the-balls and ruck-busting charges changing the face of the game.

Six tries in 29 minutes with no points conceded told its own story.

Kevin Brown's second try soon after Gidley's stint ended unfortunately sparked the off switch in concentration.

Three sloppily conceded tries in eight minutes, one from taking a dummy, one from falling asleep in goal-line defence mode and a freak third albeit from poor game management, almost cost Wolves a vitally important seventh consecutive victory.

The overall display in isolation was shameful, but coming on the back of the stinking performance against Halifax a fortnight earlier it is highly worrying as preparations build for a crucial clash with a desperate Leigh side on Saturday.


. Seventh Wolves win in a row.

. Equals the highest points conceded in a game, to win a match. On June 1, 2001, Wire beat Wigan Warriors 47-38 at Wilderspool.

. Ben Westwood's first try of the season, against the team he scored against on his debut! He has now scored a try in each of his 16 seasons at Warrington, as with Brian Bevan over 16 seasons, Lee Briers over 17, Parry Gordon over 17 and Mark Forster over 19.

. First visit to Trailfinders Sports Ground, Ealing.


Middle 8s, Round 4, Saturday, September 2, 2017

London Broncos...38 Warrington Wolves...40

Broncos: Alex Walker; Kieran Dixon, Api Pewhairangi, Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams; Jarrod Sammut, William Barthau; Eddie Battye, Andy Ackers, Mark Ioane, Matthew Gee, Jay Pitts, Matt Davis. Subs: James Cunningham, Matthew Garside, Ben Evans, Tom Spencer.

Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Matty Russell, Peta Hiku, Ryan Atkins, Tom Lineham; Dec Patton, Kevin Brown; Chris Hill, Morgan Smith, Ashton Sims, Benjamin Jullien, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood. Subs: Kurt Gidley, George King, Andre Savelio, Joe Philbin.

Scoring: Dixon try, 3mins, 4-0; Williams try, 9mins, 8-0; Sammut try, 17mins, Sammut goal, 14-0; Lineham try, 28mins, 14-4; King try, 39mins, 14-10; Hiku try, 45mins, Patton goal, 14-16; Brown try, 50mins, Patton goal, 14-22; Patton try, 53mins, Patton goal, 14-28; Westwood try, 57mins, Patton goal, 14-34; Sammut try, 61mins, Sammut goal, 20-34; Brown try, 65mins, Patton goal, 40-20; Sammut try, 71mins, Sammut goal, 26-40; Ackers try, 74mins, Sammut goal, 32-40; Dixon try, 77mins, Sammut goal, 38-40.

Penalties: Broncos Wolves.

Referee: Liam Moore.

Attendance: 1,476.

Guardian man of the match: Kurt Gidley.