Smith banks on bouncebackability to keep Wolves in hunt for double

 

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The Independent Online

The Warrington coach, Tony Smith, is expecting a trademark response from his Challenge Cup-winning team as they look to keep alive their dream of completing a rare double.

The Wolves were hoping to have this weekend off after securing a top-two finish in Super League for the second successive year, but last week's opening play-off defeat by St Helens has forced them into a sudden-death tie with Hull at the Halliwell Jones Stadium tonight.

It is almost 18 months since the Wolves last suffered back-to-back defeats and Smith is confident they are not about to blot their copybook.

"We're into sudden-death one week before we'd have liked," he said yesterday. "I'd rather have a kick in the teeth last weekend than in two weeks' time, had we squeezed through on a substandard performance. From now on, we know we have to perform as well as we can but we dust ourselves off pretty quickly.

"What we've been able to do in the last couple of years when we've had a performance we've not been quite so pleased with is bounce back with a fairly decent one. I don't think we've suffered too many back-to-backs and we don't want to be starting now."

Warrington are seeking to become the first team to complete the league and cup double since St Helens in 2006 and Smith is hoping his side's proven ability in knockout football can take them all the way to Old Trafford. "We've been able to do it in a different competition, it's being able to do it in two different competitions that most teams have found tough for the last number of years," he said. "We're hopeful of being that first one for a while."

Warrington lost 40-6 at home to Hull in their only previous play-off meeting back in 2005, when Andrew Johns made the last of his three guest appearances for them, and they have a woeful Grand Final series record of just two wins from 10 ties.

Unlike Warrington, Hull have Grand Final experience and their coach, Peter Gentle, is hoping to emulate his fellow countryman Peter Sharp by taking them all the way to Old Trafford in his first season in charge. The Black and Whites had a mid-season wobble but appear to be hitting their straps at the right time, having piled up 152 points in their last three matches and considerably tightened their defence.

"There is a calmness about the squad," Gentle said. "We know what we have to do if we want to still be here next week and there is a real confidence about the place. We've only conceded five tries in the last three weeks and we are getting that steeliness back in our defence. There is a good attitude there and that's what you'd expect at this time of year. The boys are excited and there's a real, genuine belief that we can do something special in the play-offs."

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