Appo masterclass steers Warrington into play-offs

Warrington 52 Wakefield 12
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The Independent Online

Warrington made another piece of history as they played their final competitive match at a packed Wilderspool, by qualifying for the Super League play-offs for the first time.

This time last season, the Wolves were thrashed by Wakefield at the end of a fraught campaign that had seen both sides battling against relegation. This time, the atmosphere could not have been more different as Graham Appo led the celebrations with 32 points from three tries and 10 goals from 10 attempts, several of them from the touchline.

Appo's individual display was as good as any player has produced anyway this season. "He's been a revelation. If he's not the Man of Steel I've never seen one,'' said his coach Paul Cullen, who gives Appo much of the credit for making up for the absence of Lee Briers, who is expected back for the play-off match at Wigan next Saturday.

Appo and Sid Domic not only set the tone with a couple of thunderous early tackles, they also scored the two tries that put Warrington firmly in control and on their way to the victory they needed to edge Hull out of sixth place. Dean Gaskell's left-wing break set up Domic and then some slick handling ended with Brent Grose slipping the ball back inside for Appo to touchdown for the first time. Appo claimed a spectacular second, after lead-up work from Grose and Ben Westwood, after 23 minutes.

Wakefield, with little left to play for, lacked any comparable urgency and the kicking of Jamie Rooney, so impressive in recent weeks, was out of kilter.

A penalty gave Appo his fourth goal and it was his long pass that gave Paul Noone a chance to plunge over for the Wolves' third try. In first-half injury-time, Wakefield were cut apart again when Westwood scored a fourth.

A run from the former Warrington player, Ian Knott, set up Rob Spicer for Wakefield's belated reply at the start of the second half. That only provoked Appo to further feats, his interception from David March taking him 90 yards to complete his hat-trick and step-up his pursuit of London's Dennis Moran at the top of the Super League try scoring charts. Westwood somehow got around Spicer for the next Warrington try with Appo still refusing to miss, although Michael Korkidas got one back for Trinity. Domic's second and two more goals from Appo rounded it off.

Despite this disappointing end to a generally disappointing season, Shane McNally is likely to be confirmed this week as the club's coach for next year.

Warrington: Cardiss; Westwood, Grose, Domic, Gaskell; Appo, N Wood; Fozzard, Clarke, P Wood, Moone, Wainwright, Burns. Substitutes used: Hulse, Gleeson, Guisset, Stevens.

Wakefield: Holland; Halpenny, Ellis, Houles, Spicer; Rooney, Jefferies; Korkidas, March, Griffin, Hood, Wrench, Field. Substitutes used: Davis, Handforth, Snitch, Knott.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).

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