Hodgson stays cool as Warrington complete epic double over Saints

Warrington 35 St Helens 28
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The Independent Online

Victories over St Helens are like Warrington buses.

You wait what seems like an age and then two come at once – although this particular service went right round the houses before reaching its destination.

The Wolves completed their first Super League double over their neighbours, but only after taking an early 18-point lead and losing it, before regrouping and taking tenuous command again in the latter stages. The cool heads of players like Lee Briers – with his late drop-goal - and Brett Hodgson were instrumental in that, but Saints deserved credit too for their part in a remarkable match.

To say the Wolves began as though they meant business would be putting it mildly. Saints were going backwards from the moment Adrian Morley almost cut James Graham in half with a fair but ferocious tackle.

At the end of a set where they were going nowhere, Lee Gaskell had his kick charged down by Michael Monaghan, who raced away to score, still with only 55 seconds on the clock. A penalty conceded for holding down Garreth Carvell by a furiously protesting Graham set the scene for a messy second try, scored by Rhys Williams.

Graham's nightmare continued with him losing the ball in the first tackle of a set. Monaghan's long kick forced a drop out and Briers' bomb into the corner was magnificently touched down by Matt King.

If that was an extraordinary start to the game then Saints' response was even more so. Predictably, it was Graham who triggered the burst of three tries in seven minutes that transformed the match, sheer willpower taking him through tackles for the first of them.

Some glorious handling of the sort for which Saints are rightly famous culminated in Scott Moore and Sia Soliola sending Gaskell away, and then Francis Meli provided the pass for Jamie Foster on the other wing. Before half-time, Saints' amazing fightback was complete, when Jonny Lomax sent Tony Puletua striding through.

"All the little things went against us and at 18-0 down, some sides would have said 'that's enough', so I'm proud of them," said coach Royce Simmons.

The second half could hardly be played at the same frantic tempo and it took 14 scoreless minutes before the Wolves regained their lead, Ben Westwood forcing it down.

Hodgson added the goal and could have decided the match had he not lost the ball on a break soon after. That seemed academic when Richie Myler squirmed through and set up Paul Wood with an inside pass.

The feeling that it was not going to be Saints' night intensified when Foster's kick-off bounced dead via the bar and the Wolves pounced again through Hodgson. Saints were still not finished, as Puletua showed by barrelling over for his second, before Briers put over the extra point for insurance.

Warrington: Hodgson; King, Bridge, Atkins, Williams; Briers, Myler; Morley, Monaghan, Carvell, Grix, Westwood, Harrison.

Substitutes used: Higham, Wood, Blythe, Solomona.

St Helens: Wellens; Makinson, Soliola, Meli, Foster; Gaskell, Lomax; Graham, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Wilkin, Flannery, Puletua.

Substitutes used: Moore, Perry, Dixon, Eastmond.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).