Morley's work, rest and play

Warrington's captain marvel has recharged batteries and can show Cas his class
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The Independent Online

It might be the definition of rugby league luxury – being able to rest the best prop in the game without the team suffering unduly.

That was what Warrington did with Adrian Morley at Crusaders last weekend, his coach, Tony Smith, having spotted something in the defeat to Leeds that was not apparent to the naked eye – that his captain needed to recharge his batteries.

"He asked me if I wanted to play. I told him I did and he left me out anyway," said a bemused Morley. "I missed a couple of tackles the week before, but one paper had me down as Warrington's best player."

Despite that, Smith had identified a couple of signs that his captain needed a rest. That's one of the things he's paid for. "We need to make sure he's fresh when we need him to be fresh," Smith said. "He'll be better for it next week."

It helps, of course, when you have a replacement of the calibre of Garreth Carvell waiting in the wings. Both he and Morley are in the squad against Castleford today, along with Jon Clarke, back after a long lay-off as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Mickey Higham.

Richie Myler came safely through his comeback match last week and is set to continue.

Cas have been the most improved side of the last month, winning four matches on the trot to elevate themselves to eighth place and raise hopes of a role in the play-offs.

Their coach, Terry Matterson, says that it doesn't get any easier for a side on that sort of run. "In this run of victories, we've had to face a stiffer challenge each week," he said.

"Warrington are deservedly second in the table and it will be a good measure of our progress."

The Tigers' resurgence has coincided with the departure of the experienced half-back and organiser, Brent Sherwin, to the Catalans Dragons. Sherwin, for all his pedigree, was never consistently effective at The Jungle. In his absence, Matterson opted out of necessity for a pairing of Rangi Chase and Dean Widders that has thrived beyond all expectations.

Chase is a gifted individual rather than a playmaker, while the bulky Widders looks nothing like the conventional idea of a stand-off. The two have gelled admirably, however, as they have prospered on the platform laid by a pack with few stars but plentiful workrate. Another enforced change that has worked has been playing Brett Ferres, normally a back-row forward, in the centres. Again, he does not exactly look the part, but the experiment has worked.

Castleford are likely to be involved with Bradford and their neighbours, Wakefield, in a battle for eighth place and a berth in the play-offs that would go a long way towards defining a successful season.

Crusaders have not given up hope of crashing the party, though, especially if they can get something from today's trip to Huddersfield.