By Anthony Pilling
Warrington Wolves returned home from their weekend across the channel to host their upoming Challenge Cup final opponents St Helens aiming to return to winning ways in Super League.
St Helens edged a close affair last time they were here in June. Wire led for the best part of an hour but a late resurgence from Saints made sure they left the HJ with the two points.
A whole host of changes came for the Wire for this one. There were debuts for Riley Dean and new man Matty Smith while Luther Burrell was handed his long-awaited first start for the club at home. Youngster Josh Thewlis also returned to the line-up, as did Ben Westwood. There were starts for Danny Walker, Harvey Livett and Sitaleki Akauola. Luis Johnson was named on the bench.
Wire started brightly after Jake Mamo gave them the lead two minutes in. Saints had their first score through Kevin Naiqama. A memorable first try for Josh Thewlis put Steve Price’s side back in front but a quick reply from Jonny Lomax had the league leaders a four-point lead. Stefan Ratchford added a late penalty to halve the deficit at the break.
Saints restarted with a quick try from Joseph Paulo. A second penalty from Ratchford put Wire back in the game but two quick scores from Matthew Costello and Tommy Makinson gave Justin Holbrook’s side back-to-back victories at The Halliwell-Jones Stadium.
Stefan Ratchford, Josh Thewlis, Bryson Goodwin, Luther Burrell, Jake Mamo, Riley Dean, Matty Smith, Chris Hill, Danny Walker, Sitaleki Akauola, Ben Currie, Harvey Livett, Ben Westwood
Subs: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Matt Davis, Lama Tasi, Luis Johnson
Tries: Mamo, Thewlis
Goals: Ratchford (2)
Jack Welsby, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Matthew Costello, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Danny Richardson, Matty Lees, Aaron Smith, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Dominique Peyroux, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook
Subs: Joseph Paulo, Kyle Amor, Jack Ashworth, James Bentley
Tries: Naiqama, Lomax, Paulo, Costello, Makinson
Goals: Richardson (5)
Wire got off to the perfect start and took the lead two minutes in. A fresh set of six came just 20 metres out thanks to a knock-on from Regan Grace. The ball was shifted well to the right edge and a super cut-out pass from debutant Dean found Mamo who went over in the corner. Ratchford was wide with the conversion. 4-0.
Saints replied just nine minutes later. With the ball 10 metres out, some quick hands found Naiqama who wandered through a gap to score. Danny Richardson’s successful conversion was the difference. 4-6.
After 25 minutes and the Wire were back in front with a special moment for Thewlis. Wire regained the ball in the Saints’ half when Tommy Makinson knocked on. Ratchford worked the ball left and Thewlis was over in the left corner for his first professional try for the club. Ratchford missed the following conversion. 8-6.
Saints led again just four minutes later. Lomax’s dummy sold the Wire defence to scamper through and score. Richardson added the kick. 8-12.
Saints were penalised on the stroke of half time for offside which allowed Ratchford to put Wire within two at the break. 10-12.
The visitors extended their lead five minutes after the break. A jinking run by Grace had resulted in a drop-out. Kyle Amor broke the line on the restart and a simple pass inside allowed Paulo to score under the posts. Richardson added the conversion. 10-18.
Ratchford kicked his second penalty of the game after 55 minutes when Lama Tasi was tackled without the ball, to make it a one score game. 12-18.
Saints struck again just after the hour. A high tackle from Chris Hill gave Saints possession inside the Wire half. The ball came left and Costello charged his way over. Richardson was successful with the boot. 12-24.
The visitors had another four minutes later. The ball came from left to right and Makinson acrobatically dived in for the corner. Richardson was on target again with the kick. 12-30.
Wire came close at the other end on more than one occasion but were unable to reply to a solid display from Justin Holbrook’s side.