HAVING given themselves a mountain to climb at half time, Warrington Wolves very nearly did so.

Indeed, they dragged themselves to within sight of the peak only to find themselves slipping agonisingly backwards into painfully familiar territory.

Once again, they were left to watch St Helens celebrate a narrow victory with their away supporters and will have had “what ifs” racing around their heads.

And very much like the meeting between the two in July, The Wire will look at this as an opportunity missed.

Nobody thought it would be that way at half time as they trudged into the dressing rooms 12 points down having spent pretty much the entire 40 minutes inside their own half.

Such was the level of pressure they had to turn away in the first half, they deserve plenty of credit for keeping themselves just about alive but the most frustrating thing was that a lot of the heat put on them was self-inflicted by more needless errors and poor ends to sets.

You simply cannot give a champion side like St Helens any extra opportunity to turn the screw and sure enough, they gleefully took the chance to grind their hosts down.

Then when Wire did get the chance to attack, it would often break down in the face of the kind of ferocious defence that has become Saints’ moniker.

The very first carry of the game when the usually irrepressible Paul Vaughan was carted back to just shy of his own try line set the tone – the visitors came hunting and Wire were easy prey.

That intensity did drop, however, and when it did, Warrington could set about breathing life into the game – and this is perhaps where they will feel the most regret.

While they were denied at least three certain tries by a combination of superb last-ditch defending and a “take one for the team” yellow card for Jon Bennison, Wire’s execution let them down in a period in which they had their visitors hanging on for dear life.

Saints tried every trick in the book of dark arts to stem the primrose and blue tide and ultimately, it paid off as they were able to hold them at bay.

What is absolutely vital, however, is that Warrington take the lessons from this and apply it in the little time they have.

They may well reach the play-offs and run into their neighbours again, and this was a lesson as to the kind of mentality and intensity needed to win matches of that magnitude.

Getting over the top of the mountain would have been a huge psychological boost for the challenges that may or may not lie ahead, but instead we are faced with more questions as to whether this squad has it within themselves to stand toe-to-toe with the elite sides and come out victorious.