Warrington went to the top of the table with their record Super League win as Harlequins came down to earth with a resounding crash yesterday. Chris Bridge led the way with a hat-trick of tries, while Brett Hodgson missed just one of his 14 shots at goal, but everyone in the side enjoyed the freedom of the Halliwell Jones Stadium in an astonishingly one-sided exhibition.
"We prepared ourselves to play against a tough team, but things just didn't go their way," said the Wolves assistant coach, Willie Poching. "We played some fantastic football and the players have to be commended on their level of skill."
These were the Harlequins we feared we might see this season, rather than the ones who had performed so creditably in winning four of their first five matches. Yesterday, they were a muddle of defensive incompetence and Warrington punished them mercilessly, starting with Bridge's first try, from a simple overlap, after four minutes.
His second was uncannily similar, before Michael Monaghan's break and suspiciously forward-looking pass released Richie Myler to set up Lee Briers. Bridge completed his hat-trick, rolling over from Brett Hodgson's pass and, even when Quins got some respite through Luke Dorn's close-range effort, the effect was short-lived.
Far from inspiring them, that try brought a new level of absurdity to the Londoners' play. They passed behind their try-line not once but twice to present David Solomona with a try and Myler stole the ball from David Howell for another, converted, like all its predecessors, by Hodgson.
Any hopes that the Wolves might ease off were obliterated in the early minutes of the second half. The try set up by Bridge's break, with Myler kicking ahead for Rhys Evans to pick up on the bounce, was the best of the lot. By way of variation, Solomona, Ben Westwood and Adrian Morley added close-range forwards' tries to expose a different sort of fragility, not helped by Danny Ward's 10 minutes in the sin bin, before Matty Blythe, a danger throughout, got the score he deserved.
A touchdown by Lee Mitchell and Westwood's second took Warrington beyond their highest score in any league match – a record dating back to 1907 – and Hodgson finished with a try to go with his 13 goals.
"The first thing to say was that Warrington were very, very good, but that doesn't excuse us conceding 82 points," said shell-shocked Quins coach Rob Powell. "Maybe we're not as good as people thought we were. Maybe we're not as good as we thought we were."
Poching had some words of comfort. "They've had some great results and they'll get over this" he said. "This will just be a blip."
The issue for Warrington is what sort of preparation this was for their game at second-placed Wigan on Friday. "They'll approach it as professionally as they did this game," Poching said.
Warrington Hodgson; J.Monaghan, Blythe, Bridge, Evans; Briers, Myler; Carvell, M.Monaghan, Wood, Grix, Westwood, Harrison.
Substitutes used Morley, Solomona, Mitchell, Clarke.
Harlequins Dorn; Melling, Howell, Pryce, O'Callaghan; Gale, Randall; Ward, Ellis, Wilkes, Clubb, Purdham, Bailey. Substitutes used Temata, Ambler, Bryan, Kouparitsas.
Referee S.Ganson (St Helens).