Warrington 8 St Helens 38: Tony Smith refuses to panic after falling to a crushing season-opening defeat

Smith feels that his side suffered from only having one pre-season friendly but feels they will still feature in the race for the title come October

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The Independent Online

Warrington coach Tony Smith is confident his side will once more be a force in Super League this season despite getting off to the worst possible start.

The Wolves looked a pale shadow of the side that reached the last two Grand Finals as they crashed to an opening-round 38-8 home defeat by a rampant St Helens.

Smith admitted his side began their campaign under-done after opting to play just one pre-season friendly.

"That's the risk you take," he said. "We could have had three or four friendlies but by the end of the season, we'd have only half our squad left standing.

"Most teams go in with one friendly. You use the first few rounds as your warm-up games.

"That's due to the length of the season. If we had shorter seasons, we'd have more warm-up games and hone our skills a whole lot better.

"We'd like to think we'll get better over the next few weeks."

Warrington face another difficult test in the second round, with a trip to Leeds next Friday, but they have four players to come back into the team.

The loss of former captains Lee Briers and Adrian Morley was always going to result in a transitional period but the absence through injury of forwards Simon Grix, Paul Wood and Ben Harrison, who all played in October's Grand Final, and new full-back Matty Russell, compounded the difficulties for Smith.

"You've got to highlight the fact that Warrington had three of their best forwards not playing tonight," said St Helens coach Nathan Brown.

"One of Warrington's great strengths in the past four years has been their bench and, with their full-back not playing, it obviously pushed Stefan Ratchford back and they want to play him at six.

"So they had a lot of influential players missing. Warrington will be a very good side again.

"If we are playing Warrington at the end of the year and beating them, we'll be very happy."

Saints' match-winner was Australian scrum-half Luke Walsh, who scored a try and kicked seven goals from as many attempts on his Super League debut, while former Wakefield prop Kyle Amor was also a tryscorer on his first appearance for the club.

On Friday night, Hull will look to erase the memory of their disastrous finish to the 2013 season when they host Catalan Dragons at the KC Stadium.

The Black and Whites are still hurting from their 78-16 play-off defeat by Huddersfield last October, which abruptly ended their campaign and ultimately cost coach Peter Gentle his job.

"The game can't come soon enough for me and the rest of the lads," said Hull vice-captain Danny Houghton.

"I'm ready for the season to start. We've been training for about 15 weeks now and everybody has had a good dig."

Hull will give a second debut to prop Garreth Carvell, who has rejoined them in controversial fashion from Bradford, who are threatening to sue him for breach of contract.