Warrington produced an outstanding display of defensive resilience to prevent the Super League champions, St Helens, from scoring a try all evening and solidifying their place inside the competition’s play-off places.
It has been difficult to know what to expect from Steve Price’s side so far this season. On occasions they have been outstanding, while on others – like their recent Challenge Cup semi-final loss to Castleford – they have been dreadfully below par. But here, it was very much a case of the former as Ben Currie’s first-half try, the only one of the game, proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
However, the real difference was Warrington’s defence. Time and again St Helens threw everything at their opponents here, but a number of last-ditch rearguard efforts kept them at bay as Price’s side strengthened their position in fourth place in the table with their seventh win of the season. For St Helens, it was only a second league defeat of the season, on a night when their attack was uncharacteristically wayward.
In a fast-paced, intense opening quarter defence was very much on top from both teams, with the only points registered via the boot of Lachlan Coote after Warrington were penalised at the ruck in a rare lapse of discipline.
However, the Saints were unable to force their way through a resilient Warrington defensive line. Despite a prolonged period of pressure, the Wolves held firm on numerous occasions and frustrated the home supporters.
As the half wore on, Warrington’s attack began to click into gear. And when a break down the left freed Tom Lineham, the winger turned the ball inside for Currie, who finished superbly despite the attention of Coote to put the visitors ahead, with Gareth Widdop converting to put the Wolves 6-2 ahead.
There were further chances for both sides as half-time approached, though. The best fell to Warrington, as Stefan Ratchford spilled with the line begging, before Widdop missed a long-range penalty on the half-time hooter after St Helens were penalised for obstruction. However, the Wolves still led by four at half-time and, on the balance of play, it was a lead they just about merited.
The intensity from the first half continued after half-time. The contest continued at a relentless pace, and while it always felt as if both sides’ attack would click into gear, defence remained firmly on top of proceedings. It was increasingly becoming a game of fine margins, but as each error felt more significant as the game entered the final quarter, Warrington’s defence stood firm on every occasion.
St Helens certainly had their chances, though. The best came when they had consecutive sets on the Warrington line, coming up short on each occasion, but the game was not safe for Warrington until the final seconds. By then, however, they had held firm on several occasions. Here, the competition’s best attacking side undoubtedly made their mark at the other end of the field against the champions.