Warrington Wolves had the perfect opportunity to make amends for last weekend’s season opening loss to the Wigan Warriors as they welcomed Champions St Helens to the Halliwell-Jones for their first home game of the season.
St Helens were unstoppable against Salford Red Devils last time out, and after one game are at the top of the table that they made their own last season. Saints were strong favourites with the bookies to pick up another two points, but the last team which beat them were Warrington in the 2019 Challenge Cup Final.
Warrington made an enforced change with the suspended Hill being replaced by Joe Philbin in the starting thirteen with Matt Davis being brought in on the bench. Saints were without the injured Lachlan Coote as Jack Welsby moved to full back, Alex Walmsley was a late withdrawal, pulling out after the warm-up.
The opening exchanges were scrappy from both teams and it took eighteen minutes before the first points, which arrived courtesy of the boot of Stefan Ratchford, after the home side were awarded a penalty on the Saints twenty.
Daryl Clark went over the line off a Stefan Ratchford offload but was stopped from getting the ball onto the ground. The defences which had dominated the opening twenty-five minutes had their closest call. But six minutes later Clark did manage to get the ball down over the line with a scoot from acting half back. Ratchford was unable to add the conversion.
Three minutes later and Saints stood by and watched Ratchford collect his own kick before passing out left, the ball went through Toby King and ended up in the hands of Tom Lineham who span out of a tackle and stumbled to the line to score. This time Ratchford converted from the touchline for a 12-0 lead.
Blake Austin added a thirty metre drop goal with thirty seconds of the half remaining and the Wolves went into the interval with a three score lead.
Saints started the second half blitzing the Wolves line. On forty-nine Kevin Naiqama went for the corner by heroic defence by three Wolves players managed to get him into touch before he could ground the ball.
But on fifty-three Josh Charnley hit Saints hard as he took the ball as the last man in a left to right passing move to go the last twenty metres to score in the corner without a Saints defender able to get a hand on him. Ratchford couldn’t add the goal, Saints needed three converted try.
A Matty Lees straight arm tackle on Mark Cooper on sixty-eight gave Ratchford a long range penalty goal to extend the lead to 19-0 and seal the points.
Jonny Lomax almost avoided the whitewash for Saints with two minutes left, but another heroic defensive effort saw him unable to get the ball onto the ground.
A solid Warrington performance in what was, at times, a brutal encounter, inflicted a rare defeat on a St Helens side who are very out of practice in leaving games pointless. It is over six months since Saints suffered a Super League loss and Warrington will see this as a major step towards establishing their 2020 pedigree. After their big win last week, this week’s nilling for Saints serves to illuistrate that it could be a very competitive league competition.
Wolves: Ashton, Lineham (T), King, Gelling, Charnley (T), Austin (DG), Ratchford (3G), Philbin, Clark D (T), Cooper, Currie, Murdoch-Masila, Clarke J. Subs: Davis, Akauola, Walker, Burrell.
Saints: Welsby, Naiqama, Costello, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Lees, Bentley, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Batchelor, Ashworth, Paulo, Smith.
Referee: Chris Kendall.