STEVE Price hailed the work of Warrington Wolves’ young professionals throughout the year in being able to push a more experienced Salford Red Devils side to the wire on Tuesday night.

A side with an average age of 21 led 18-0 until just before half time and went behind for the first time when Krisnan Inu kicked the winning penalty goal in the 79th minute.

And yet many of the players on show, including three debutants and nine others who had played no more than two senior games, had not played since March due to Covid-19 forcing the cancellation of reserve, academy and Championship rugby for the rest of this year.

“I think it was the youngest team in the history of Warrington Wolves since forming as a club,” said Price, who rested the majority of his first-team regulars for Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final.

“It was always going to be a tough game but we always had the mindset of a winning mentality and we played some really good football for 39 minutes in the first half.

“It was just unfortunate we couldn’t execute our kick defence with that Salford try pre-half time.

“To go 18-0 I thought we really looked in control.

“Momentum was always going to swing in that second half and I thought we defended that try line for long periods.

“We got over the stripe but Riley Dean dropped the ball. Keanan Brand had an opportunity down the left but we just couldn’t ice it.

“I'm super proud of the boys' efforts. They just wanted to go out there and represent the jersey with pride and the boys certainly did that

“I’m just elated for them, to play first-team at the Warrington Wolves and to put themselves in that position to win the game against some quality first-team players in Salford shows the club’s in good shape.”

Training fitness does not equate to match fitness and yet Wolves’ youngsters looked so sharp, especially in the first half when Nathan Roebuck, Josh Thewlis and Riley Dean crossed for tries converted by Dec Patton, who was captaining his hometown team at Super League level for the first time.

“It’s unfortunate that there’s been no games played for those younger guys but we do a lot of training outside the 21, the non-playing group.

“They work extremely hard during the week and it definitely showed.

“We’re in good shape and I’ve got the utmost confidence in a number of those guys down the track to be able to throw on the jersey for us.

“The coaching and performance staff deserve a big rap in the amount of work they’ve been doing behind the scenes to get them in that physical shape.

“Our first-team players too deserve a big rap. They’ve played a big part in mentoring them in becoming the men they are.

“From where they were at the start of the year to where they are now, they’ve grown as men - not only as rugby league players, we’re big on being a man and taking responsibility at all times.

“I’m just really pleased for them.”