FOR the second time this season, Warrington Wolves welcome neighbours St Helens to The Halliwell Jones Stadium for a Super League fixture.

It will be the third meeting between the sides in total this year and there is to be a fourth in the play-offs, it is a game The Wire could do with a result in.

Saints also need the points for their own reasons as they fight to retain the League Leaders' Shield, thus setting up an enticing game between two of the competition's marquee sides.

Here, our Wire reporter Matt Turner looks at some key talking points surrounding Friday's Round 26 fixture...

Warrington Guardian:

Plenty on the line for both sides

There is no doubt that, in placing this fixture as close to the end of the regular season as it is, Super League’s powers-that-be would have been hoping for scenario like this.

In the campaign’s early weeks, it looked as though this might be a key game in deciding the fate of the League Leaders’ Shield such was The Wire’s dominant start.

It still is given Saints are still locked in the fight to finish top, but there is still a lot on the line for both sides despite Warrington’s alarming slide from the summit.

Two neighbours who are among the competition’s power-base sides battling it out with everything still to play for in the penultimate round of the season – what more could you ask for as a neutral?

Warrington Guardian:

A huge opportunity for youngsters

Whatever happens, we will get a glimpse into the future of Warrington Wolves on Friday night.

With George Williams injured, Gary Chambers has put his faith in youth and will hand the team’s creative reins over to 19-year-old scrum-half Leon Hayes.

Having not played in Super League this season, being thrown into a game of this magnitude against clearly formidable opposition will be a real “sink or swim” moment for the Warringtonian, but he will no doubt be desperate to show he is a star in the making.

Many fans are already convinced that is true of Connor Wrench, and an injury to the previously ever-present Peter Mata’utia will see the speedster get a chance in his preferred centre role.

This is his chance to make a play for a sustained run in the role and maybe get himself ahead of the returning Toby King and incoming duo Rodrick Tai and Wesley Bruines for next year.

Warrington Guardian: Leon Hayes will make his first Super League appearance of the season on FridayLeon Hayes will make his first Super League appearance of the season on Friday (Image:


Another chance to buck a worrying trend

Games against St Helens and Wigan Warriors are the ones in which, ultimately, Warrington teams and head coaches are judging.

Unfortunately for Daryl Powell, they were the games he fell down in as Wire failed to beat their two neighbours in nine attempts during his premiership.

Their last win over Wigan came in September 2021, their last over Saints in June of the same year while the last time St Helens left Warrington defeated by the men in primrose and blue was all the way back in February 2020.

Those facts will not help change the narrative surrounding this Warrington team which says they do not handle “pressure games” well, reinforced by their golden-point loss at Salford on Sunday.

A victory on Friday will not mean that theory is completely thrown out, but it would be a start in terms of turning it on its head.

Warrington Guardian: Warrington have not beaten St Helens at home since February 2020Warrington have not beaten St Helens at home since February 2020 (Image: Mike Boden)

Will Wire attack Saints’ middle?

Since Gary Chambers took over, there has been an emphasis in changing the team’s style to one that is quicker and more direct.

“Flat and fast” have been the buzzwords as they attack opponents through the middle with their large and mobile forward pack to open up gaps for their speedier players.

They have had success with that approach in the past four games – metres through the middle have been easy to come by but, as was the case at Salford, they have not always been able to take advantage.

Taking that approach against a St Helens side that relishes that kind of middle-third arm-wrestle, however, is a different proposition altogether.

They may be missing the huge bodies of Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi but the likes of Matty Lees, Morgan Knowles and company will be thinking “bring it on.”

Warrington Guardian: Unlike the previous two meetings with Saints this year, Wire will have Tom Mikaele available to them on FridayUnlike the previous two meetings with Saints this year, Wire will have Tom Mikaele available to them on Friday (Image: Mike Boden)

The hunter in the St Helens pack

Saints’ last outing against Leigh Leopards was an excellent game to watch as a neutral supporter and one of the intriguing parts of it was the role of their impressive packman James Bell.

His role within the side has grown over the course of the season and on Friday, he certainly went hunting for Leigh’s Tom Amone.

Alongside Paul Vaughan, Amone has arguably been the competition’s stand-out prop forward but Bell made it his personal mission to limit his impact and carried it out successfully.

Will Wire have highlighted that in their video and pointed out that he may want to do a similar job on Vaughan?

Warrington Guardian: Paul Vaughan prepares for contact with James Bell back in JulyPaul Vaughan prepares for contact with James Bell back in July (Image: Mike Boden)