THE primrose and blue balloon that has been cautiously inflating during the first fortnight of the new season has certainly had some air let out now.

Having taken two steps forward in the direction of a more fluent and expansive Warrington Wolves side, this felt like a big step back towards the drudgery that marred most of last season.

Granted, the weather dictated that this was not a day to throw the ball around with gay abandon, but the Wire fans huddled on Belle Vue’s unforgiving open terrace would have expected a lot more than what they saw.

With Gareth Widdop and Blake Austin finally together in the halves and part of a spine completed by Stefan Ratchford and Daryl Clark, another step forward looked in the offing.

It may have been their first time playing together in less-than-ideal conditions and it is only round three, but none of those are enough to mitigate what was another desperate effort from The Wire with ball in hand.

Warrington Guardian:

Gareth Widdop's debut failed to herald an improved attacking display. Picture by Mike Boden

With the aforementioned international-standard quartet in the creative positions and with players of a similar ilk surrounding them, a single try and eight points overall is a meagre and unsatisfactory return.

Players did not quite seem to know their roles or where they were supposed to be on given plays, passes were mistimed and simple errors were made in execution – a casing point was Jake Mamo making a hash of a simple inside ball to the supporting Daryl Clark which would have sent the hooker on an unchallenged run to the line.

Indeed, Wakefield coach Chris Chester said he never really felt threatened by the Warrington attack, even when they were leading – a damning indictment of their attacking display.

While it is a little circumstantial to point the finger of blame solely on the decision to omit Matty Ashton – so impressive in the first two games – from the 17, it is a call that was surprising before the game and looked pretty inexplicable after it.

His pace frightens teams and no doubt Chris Chester will have been heartened when his name did not appear on Steve Price’s teamsheet.

Warrington Guardian:

Matty Ashton, right, was left out of the Wire team altogether. Picture by Mike Boden

With all due respect to Wakefield – there can be no doubt they deserved the win on the day – they are not expected to be among Warrington’s rivals for the upper echelons of Super League.

Failing to unpick their defence more than once is a concerning sign and while The Wire’s defence was on the whole very good, teams of higher quality would have made them pay for the amount of field position they afforded their hosts.

From the high of nilling the defending champions last week, this was a definite trough.

Warrington Guardian:

Stefan Ratchford scores The Wire's only try of the game. Picture by Mike Boden

Price has challenged his team to be consistent, but the last time they won back-to-back games was last June. They have now lost 10 of their past 12 league games under his charge.

The trouble with trying to defend your way to victory as The Wire have done a couple of times is that if things are not happening at the other end, it only takes one or two tries to be your downfall.

Warrington are still trying to find that balance and while there is time for it to be found, they will find themselves playing catch-up if it carries on for much longer.


. Steve Price’s first defeat to Wakefield Trinity as a head coach

. Gareth Widdop makes his Wire debut

. Wire squad numbers six and seven (Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop) start in the halves together for the first time since 2018 Super League Grand Final (Kevin Brown and Tyrone Roberts)


Super League, Round Three

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Wakefield Trinity...18 Warrington Wolves...8

Trinity: Max Jowitt; Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne, Joe Arundel, Tom Johnstone; Jacob Miller, Ryan Hampshire; Craig Kopczak, Kyle Wood, Kelepi Tanginoa, Jay Pitts, Matty Ashurst, Joe Westerman. Subs: Josh Wood, Adam Tangata, James Batchelor, Romain Navarette

Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Josh Charnley, Jake Mamo, Toby King, Tom Lineham; Blake Austin, Gareth Widdop; Mike Cooper, Daryl Clark, Joe Philbin, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Ben Currie, Jason Clark. Subs: Sitaleki Akauola, Matt Davis, Danny Walker, Luther Burrell

Scoring: Ratchford penalty, 38mins, 0-2; Hampshire penalty, 44mins, 2-2; Hampshire penalty, 49mins, 4-2; Hampshire penalty, 58mins, 6-2; Ratchford try, 61mins, Ratchford goal, 6-8; Ashurst try, 71mins, Hampshire goal, 12-8; Johnstone try, 74mins, Hampshire goal, 18-8

Penalties: Trinity 9 Wolves 8

Referee: Marcus Griffiths

Attendance: 5,197