By Alan Domville (images by P&B Pictures)
Warrington were coasting to a comfortable win over Rovers, leading 22-2 at the interval, but the visitors hit back with three tries in the first 10 minutes of the second period to close the gap to two points.
Wire survived the scare however and went on to earn their sixth Super League win in a row.
Ryan Atkins was in the Warrington starting line-up while Rovers included Ryan Shaw, a product of the Warrington Academy.
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Ryan Atkins, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood
Subs: Joe Philbin, Morgan Smith, Sitaleki Akauola, Dominic Crosby
Tries: Cooper, Hughes (2), Currie, Lineham, Ratchford, Atkins
Goals: Ratchford (6)
Adam Quinlan, Ryan Shaw, Liam Salter, Taioalo Vaivai, Justin Carney, Danny McGuire, Chris Atkin, Robbie Mulhern, Shaun Lunt, Mose Masoe, Maurice Blair, Danny Tickle, Ben Kavanagh
Subs: Nick Scruton, Matty Marsh, James Greenwood, James Donaldson
Tries: Blair, Donaldson, Atkin, McGuire
Goals: Shaw (5)
Stefan Ratchford kicked off towards the west stand and during Warrington’s first set the Rovers’ hooker Shaun Lunt sustained a knee injury while making a tackle on Ben Westwood; he was helped off and played no further part in the game.
But Rovers went ahead when they were awarded a penalty for a high tackle, Shaw obliging with his kick from 25 metres out.
Rovers came again and two grubbers to the line had to be taken care of, the second from McGuire being scooped up by Westwood.
Ben Currie then made a telling break down the left and kicked for Tom Lineham to collect. The winger dived spectacularly over the line but the linesman’s flag had been raised for a foot in touch.
A succession of penalties went the Rovers’ way before Warrington mounted their next offensive. Bryson Goodwin was brought down inches short of the line, Currie was held up over it and Matty Marsh was unable to clear his line, conceding a drop out from the sticks.
Chris Hill and Mike Cooper then went close, Cooper attacked the line again before falling just short but gained reward for his efforts, barrelling his way through heavy traffic to reach out and score beneath the posts. Ratchford converted.
Westwood made one of his typical powerful drives upfield to maintain the Wire momentum and after a high tackle on the hard working Joe Philbin prompted a penalty Hill was brought down close to the posts and Jack Hughes raced over. Ratchford added the extras.
More Rovers’ players were in the wars: Robbie Mulhern had gone off after taking a bang to the head and his replacement, Nick Scruton, was receiving treatment.
Early in the next tackle count Kevin Brown made a speculative kick to the right for Josh Charnley to chase but it landed too far ahead of the winger to catch and the ball bounced into touch.
After a high tackle on Daryl Clark 15 metres from the Rovers’ line was punished Brown provided the next scoring opportunity and Currie was able to race over behind the posts giving Ratchford an easy shot at goal.
Sitaleki Akauola and Dom Crosby came on for Hill and Westwood and after the former received his first pass he crashed into Scruton knocking the defender to the ground.
The referee had already blown for a penalty to Wire and it was followed by a dangerous looking kick from Tyrone Roberts which was diffused.
A grubber after the fifth tackle at the other end was collected by Goodwin, another penalty came Wire’s way and Clark was held up over the whitewash.
A score was imminent, however, amid a confusing melee on the Rovers’ line. After consultation with a linesman and goal-line official the referee ruled that Hughes had touched down for his second try.
No goal but Wire were seemingly home and dry already at 22-2
Out came the players for the second half and Wire had an immediate setback when Crosby had to be replaced, having taken a knock earlier in the game.
And one could hardly have foreseen what would follow in the next 10 minutes, Rovers scoring three tries in quick succession, all converted by Shaw, to reduce their deficit to just two points.
Firstly a ball bounced into Maurice Blair’s hands and he went over unopposed. Next, a McGuire kick was snapped up by James Donaldson who went under the posts. Then came a fine break from deep by Taioalo Vaivai. The centre served the supporting Chris Atkin and the scrum half raced over.
A big response was needed from Wire and it nearly came from Goodwin but the centre was bundled into touch just short of the line.
The all-important next score would come Wire’s way, however. A tackle on Brown was penalised in a kickable position but it was decided to run the ball.
The reward was a try for Lineham and Ratchford’s conversion meant Rovers would have to score twice to win with 15 minutes left on the clock.
A lovely pass from Morgan Smith enabled Goodwin and Lineham to almost strike again without success but a goal line drop out was forced.
And when the ball went loose Ratchford was on hand to collect and touch down. His conversion finally made the game safe at 34-20 with 11 minutes left.
Yet another try came Wire’s way soon afterwards when Clark, Goodwin, Lineham, Brown and Ratchford combined to send Atkins over.
Plucky Rovers were still not done and McGuire was rewarded for his tireless efforts when he touched down.