Briers' skills send hungry Wolves back to Wembley
Warrington 33 Huddersfield 6
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Salford City Stadium
Monday 16 July 2012
Warrington made it three Wembley appearances in four years as Lee Briers led them to a convincing win over Huddersfield. The skills of the veteran half-back helped the Challenge Cup winners in 2009 and 2010 to dominate opponents who lifted their game from their abject recent form, but could not lift it enough.
Although the Giants often looked dangerous with the ball in hand, they were fatally undermined, as Wigan had been the night before, by their inability to deal with high kicks.
The Warrington coach, Tony Smith, made a big call by leaving out young stand-off Gareth O'Brien, who had played in their last 12 games. That was conservative, however, compared to Nathan Brown, who made five changes to the Giants' side humbled at Castleford last time out.
When the action finally got under way, after a 15-minute delay because of a TV clash with the Scottish Open golf, it was Huddersfield who took a surprise lead, largely thanks to their scrum-half, Danny Brough.
He pinned the Wolves back with a 40-20 kick and then supplied the pass that sent David Fa'alogo storming toward the try-line. He was stopped just short, but he had the confidence to pass blind to the supporting Scott Moore, who crashed over.
Warrington's equaliser was nothing like as clear-cut. Garreth Carvell ran on to Briers' intelligent disguised pass, but he was ankle-tapped, covering the last few metres on hands and knees and was awarded the try on the benefit of doubt.
Carvell would have had a quick second, but he chose to run rather than pass and was stopped by a superb tackle from Jermaine McGillvary. Then, however, two Briers' kicks completely changed the complexion of the match.
The first swung in the swirling wind and eluded Scott Grix, with Ryan Atkins scoring from the resulting scrum. The second was simply allowed to bounce, which presented a clear invitation for Joel Monaghan to claim the third Warrington try, improved by Brett Hodgson's third goal.
Huddersfield had not played badly overall, but the old adage that the trailing team needed to score first after the interval was rarely more apt than here.
They were frustrated when both Luke Robinson and Leroy Cudjoe were held up over the line, and then wasted another chance with a poor kick from Grix, after Atkins had knocked on.
Michael Monaghan had what would have been a clinching try for the Wolves ruled out for an obstruction. Another opportunity came along soon, when Keith Mason went high on Adrian Morley, and this time Warrington grasped it, Briers timing his pass immaculately to put Hodgson, another tower of strength throughout, into the hole.
With Hodgson also converting, the Wolves were in the clear; Hodgson also added an insurance drop-goal and a late penalty before Stefan Ratchford's even later try.
Warrington: Hodgson; J Monaghan, Bridge, Atkins, Riley; Ratchford, Briers; Carvell, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Harrison. Subs used: Wood, Morley, M.Monaghan, McCarthy.
Huddersfield: Grix; McGillvary, CudjOe, Gilmour, Murphy; Brown, Brough; Crabtree, Moore, Mason, Fa'alogo, Ferguson, Lawrence. Subs used: Robinson, Faiumu, Patrick, Fairbank.
Referee: R.Silverwood (Mirfield).
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