FIRST thing’s first – what a superb game of rugby league.

Sure, it was lacking the sensational tries and free-scoring nature that will drag in the casuals, but for diehards of our game this was a real throwback.

It was relentless, intense and played in an atmosphere the likes of which The Halliwell Jones Stadium has not seen in a while.

While the 14,000-plus crowd that crammed into the ground did not see a points-fest, they saw a sign of what may be to come from these two sides down the track.

On this occasion, it went with the form book. But it could have been so much different.

> Price rues missed opportunities in Saints defeat

The Wire belied their underdog tag and traded blows with their more heralded visitors for most of the game and at times had them clinging on a little.

Unleashing Sitaleki Akauola for 15 minutes of mayhem rattled Saints, although young Aaron Smith was an unfortunate casualty of the Tongan’s raw, unadulterated power.

Warrington Guardian:

Sitaleki Akauola started for the first time this season. Picture by Mike Boden

While they were hanging tough in the physical battle and defending superbly, they could not quite get things going with ball in hand.

There was a feeling among some that they were too quick to take the two points on offer from penalties as opposed to building pressure, but the great Alex Murphy did once say a team should never leave the opposition’s line without points.

In games of this magnitude where chances are at an absolute premium, kicking penalty goals is not always a bad idea.

> PHOTO GALLERY: Relentless and intense but Wire come up short

Warrington Guardian:

Six of The Wire's 10 points came via penalties from Declan Patton. Picture by Mike Boden

However, there were points at which they could and should have built more pressure.

One incident springs immediately to mind – Wire forced an error from Alex Walmsley inside Saints’ half and had a chance to really turn the screw.

Instead, Declan Patton elected for an ambitious grubber kick through a crowd of bodies on the second tackle.

If it came off, he would have been heralded as a hero, but you have to question whether it was the smart play at the time.

He was not the only culprit – why oh why was the kick chase not further advanced when Regan Grace spilled a high bomb on his own line, for instance?

Warrington Guardian:

Jake Mamo scored Wire's only try. Picture by Mike Boden

These are the little things that have to go your way in games like this. Unfortunately, they did not on this occasion.

Jack Hughes can have few complaints about his sin-binning, but Wire can feel genuinely aggrieved that a clear forward pass to set up Mark Percival’s critical opening try was not spotted.

Saints were not 11 points better than Warrington – even if that is what the scoreboard shows. Unlike the meeting in April, The Wire showed they are closer to the league’s standard bearers than people thought.

They may not have got the result, but it was a performance to bring at least a little encouragement.

> Wire 10 Saints 21 as it happened


. Crowd of 14,211 is Wire’s highest of Super League season so far

. Wire’s 250th official match at The Halliwell Jones Stadium

. Chris Hill (250th) and Ben Currie (150th) hit Warrington appearance milestones


Super League, Round 20

Friday, June 28, 2019

Warrington Wolves...10 St Helens...21

Wolves: Jake Mamo; Josh Charnley, Toby King, Bryson Goodwin, Tom Lineham; Blake Austin, Declan Patton; Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Jack Hughes, Ben Currie, Sitaleki Akauola. Subs: Jason Clark, Lama Tasi, Joe Philbin, Matt Davis

Saints: Lachlan Coote; Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace; Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages; Alex Walmsley, Aaron Smith, Luke Thompson, Dom Peyroux, Morgan Knowles, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Joseph Paulo, Kyle Amor, Matty Lees, James Bentley

Scoring: Patton penalty, 15mins, 2-0; Patton penalty, 18mins, 4-0; Patton penalty, 51mins, 6-0; Percival try, 62mins, Coote goal, 6-6; Thompson try, 73mins, Coote goal, 6-12; Coote drop goal, 75mins, 6-13; Mamo try, 76mins, 10-13; Walmsley try, 78mins, Coote goal, 10-19; Coote penalty, 80mins, 10-21

Penalties: Wolves 7 Saints 11

Sin bin: Hughes (54mins, dangerous tackle)

Referee: Ben Thaler

Attendance: 14,211