Johns eclipsed as Kear's men run riot

Warrington 6 Hull 40
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The Independent Online

Three first-half tries from their experienced Australian wing Nathan Blacklock and a massive defensive effort set up the Challenge Cup winners for a trip to Bradford on Saturday. On this sort of form, it would be a major achievement for any side to keep them away from Old Trafford.

Not even Andrew Johns could save Warrington, although the world's best player tried everything he knew. The Wolves were too error-prone when they got near the Hull line and they paid the price when they were overrun in the closing stages.

"We felt all week that there was an intensity and a buzz about the place and that they were ready to perform," said the Hull coach, John Kear.

Perform they did, and Kear rated their display equal with the defeat of Leeds in Cardiff. "We knew it would be very difficult in the first 20 minutes, but if we hung on the game would turn our way.''

Those opening minutes were as torrid as Kear expected, with Warrington stretching Hull both ways through Johns and Lee Briers. They had their opportunities, but were repeatedly let down by handling errors and soon began to pay the price.

Warrington were pressing when Richard Whiting intercepted a pass from Nat Wood intended for Johns. Although he was caught, Whiting was there later in the attack to supply the inside pass from which Blacklock claimed his first try. His second was a gift from Chris Bridge, who fumbled a high kick from Richard Horne into his path.

Blacklock's hat-trick arrived before half time when Johns' pass came off Paul Noone's hand and he was there to pounce once more.

Warrington piled on the pressure after the interval, but they found the Hull defence in its "sudden death'' state of mind, although the home side got some extra encouragement when Horne was sent to the sin-bin for holding on in the tackle.

The Wolves at last got through. It was Johns, trying every weapon in his considerable armoury, who was responsible, standing wide at a scrum to take Briers' long pass and surge through a series of tackles with sheer willpower.

It seemed that a remarkable fightback might be possible, but as their coach Paul Cullen admitted, Warrington were never up to it.

"It's not just special players that win games, it's special efforts and we weren't special enough tonight,'' he said.

There was nothing special at all about the way Warrington's season disintegrated in the last 12 minutes, with Hull scoring tries through Chris Chester, Kirk Yeaman, Whiting and Gareth Raynor as they romped towards Odsal and more sudden death drama next weekend.

Warrington: Grose; Fa'afili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Bridge; Briers, Johns; Leikvoll, N Wood, P Wood, Swann, Moone, Clarke. Substitutes used: Mark Gleeson, Westwood, Hilton, Lima.

Hull: Saxton; Blacklock, Yeaman, Whiting, Raynor; Horne, Brough; Dowes, Swain, Carvell, McMenemy, Kearney, Cooke. Substitutes used: Tony, King, Thackray, Chester.

Referee: A Klein (London).