IN the end, the tale proved to be an achingly familiar one in many different ways.

Once again, Warrington Wolves found themselves on the wrong end of a tight scoreline against St Helens having threatened but not quite managed to overhaul their neighbours.

Once again, their intentions in terms of a style they believed would have success were good but errors and a lack of composure at critical times let them down.

And all of that meant that, once again, The Wire were left staring down the barrel of a first-hurdle exit for the fourth play-off campaign in a row.

Put simply, it is not good enough for a club of Warrington’s resource and ambition. They know it. Everybody knows it.

And while on the face of it getting back into the post-season picture is something they would have taken after a nightmare 2022, limping over the line after looking like title contenders early on before dramatically falling away means a year that promised so much has ended in pretty meek fashion.

In terms of this game itself, though, the result cannot have taken anyone by surprise.

There was plenty of talk about Wire’s excellent recent knockout record against Saints and while it was certainly worth holding onto, the reality is it was going to take a special effort to come away from the Totally Wicked Stadium with a win.

And when it emerged that they had to do it without not only Paul Vaughan but Tom Mikaele too, thereby robbing them of the two men that have set a dominant early platform for most if not all of their best displays of the season, Everest got that little bit higher.

And yet, there was a spell after half time where it looked eminently possible.

When Connor Wrench’s try got them back into it and Alex Walmsley was sent to the sin bin almost immediately afterwards, it presented them with a golden opportunity.

The hosts were shellshocked and on the ropes, but it never felt as though they were capable of pressing home that kind of advantage.

And therein lies the problem – that lack of a clinical edge is the difference between this Warrington side and the top teams, and that does not simply appear. It is cultivated over long periods of time.

As such, when the reverse happened and Joe Bullock was yellow-carded immediately after Tommy Makinson had put Saints back ahead, it felt like there was never going to be a way back even though Wire managed their period with 12 pretty well.

There was no lack of effort and they stood up relatively well to the Saints middle despite their obvious disadvantage in that area, with Jordy Crowther once again leading the way in that respect as he showed how astute a signing he could prove to be.

As another new era begins under Sam Burgess, that kind of effort has to be the foundation upon which everything is built. It is easy to get up for play-off games against fierce rivals, but it has to happen every week.

Too often, that has been missing and that is a big reason why this year has finished the way it has.

A year that started with a rampant rollocking of the Rhinos, peaked at a party in Perpignan, troughed in a trouncing at Trinity and finished at a soggy St Helens – Warrington Wolves’ 2023 is now officially in the history books.