Warrington’s Challenge Cup gamble paid off as their calculated below-strength team kept up the pressure at the top of Super League. They play Hull at Huddersfield next Sunday, with Wembley the prize, but their tactic could have backfired badly against a Hull Kingston Rovers team with an outside chance of a top-four finish.
In time-honoured fashion, the Wolves coach, Tony Smith, left out at least half a dozen members of his likely semi-final line-up, some through injury, most through choice. It did not look a bad policy when the team was strong enough for the task in the first 11 minutes, taking a 12-point lead.
Chris Bridge was largely responsible for the first try, putting through a clever little kick that ricocheted around defenders before Brett Hodgson touched down. Mike Cooper got his first of the season from close range, but Warrington were not destined to have the first half all their own way.
Rovers’ regular match-winner, Michael Dobson, was relatively quiet, but his half-back partner Travis Burns caused the Wolves problems every time he had the ball, especially when he linked up with Craig Hall on the right wing. It was their combination that set up the position from which Burns produced the pass that sent Jordan Cox over. The Robins then threatened on other occasions before Burns had one disallowed just before half-time for Sean Gleeson’s forward pass.
Rhys Williams could have settled Warrington nerves, but knocked on with the line open at the start of the second half. Joel Monaghan also thought he was away, but was ankle-tapped by the debutant substitute, Tyla Hepi, while Lee Briers, of all people, squandered another chance by kicking rather than passing.
At last, Ben Currie got that crucial third try on the board and the Wolves felt secure. It was also Currie who prevented Greg Eden from grabbing a fight-back try.
Chris Riley and Michael Monaghan scored to make the job look easier than it had been, before Currie dummied his way through for his second as Rovers flagged and their fans ended their afternoon by throwing a smoke canister onto the pitch.
Warrington B Hodgson; C Riley, J Monaghan, Bridge, Williams; Briers, M Monaghan; Carvell, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Currie, Cooper. Substitutes used Dwyer, Harrison, McCarthy, G Riley. Hull KR Eden; Hall, Gleeson, Salter,D Hodson;Burns, Dobson; Paea, J Hodgson, Walker, Lovegrove, Cox, Mika; Substitutes used Withers, Beaumont, Hepi, Tuimavave Referee T Roby (RFL)