Wood's determination thwarts Salford threat

Warrington 32 Salford 22
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The Independent Online

The Wolves' 42-10 defeat at the Willows in March is the undisputed low point of their campaign, but they seemed to be heading for another one when they trailed by 12 points and later by 10 in the first half.

It was the determination of Nathan Wood not to be the man forced out by the arrival of Andrew Johns that kept them in the game. The veteran Australian half-back made a series of long-range breaks that were the Wolves' only attacking weapon as they struggled to find their focus.

One of them yielded a penalty when a player in support was pulled back, and, with Warrington maintaining the pressure, Wood's pass sent Ben Westwood over.

That was a much needed reply to Salford's impressive opening salvo, which brought them two early tries.

The first came when Lee Briers flew out of the defensive line trying to intercept Cliff Beverley's pass only to leave a clear run in for Anthony Stewart, who provided the pass for the second, scored against his old club by Ian Sibbit.

After Warrington's try, Salford again stretched their lead when smart handling from Luke Robinson and Andrew Brocklehurst released Stuart Littler.

That was the cue for Wood to strike again. Beverley fumbled a ball near the Warrington line, and from the scrum, Wood raced away for a spectacular 90 metre solo try.

"The guts and fighting qualities of Nat Wood were our saving grace," admitted the Warrington coach, Paul Cullen. "Salford have to be congratulated for an outstanding first half when we were a little bit too pretty with too many of our players trying to push the final pass."

Cullen agreed that Wood had made it awfully hard to leave him out next week. "He won't be dropped," the Warrington coach said. "He will be in the side."

Salford's Karl Harrison ventured a similar prediction. "He was sensational today," Harrison said. "He's obviously under a bit of pressure next week, but he's done himself no harm and he was the difference between the two side.

"In the first half we played exceptionally well but a couple of mistakes cost us badly in the second half," he added. "We defended for too long and paid the price."

Warrington finally drew level eight minutes into the second half when Jon Clarke and Briers set up Martin Gleeson.

The Wolves turned the screw after that, and, on a hot day, the extra defensive workload was destined to wear down Salford's resistance.

Chris Bridge went over from Mark Gleeson's short pass and Logan Swann's clever one-handed offload to Briers ended any fears that Warrington could be on their way to a fourth defeat in five games since announcing their signing of Johns.

Salford, who had shown some good signs for the future, got one back through Karl Fitzpatrick, but Wolves finished on top, Chris Leikvoll getting on the scoresheet in the final minute. Warrington now await the extra inspiration which they hope Johns will bring.

Warrington: Grose; Fa'aili, Martin Gleeson, Kohe-Love, Ridge; Briers, N Wood;, Leikvoll, Mark Gleeson, P Wood, Swann, Westwood, Clarke. Substitutes used: Noone, Riley, Lima, Hilton.

Salford: Fitzpatrick; Langi, Stewart, Littler, Hodgson; Beverley, Robinson; Coley, Alker, Highton, Brocklehurst, Sibbit, Charles. Substitutes used: Clough, Baldwin, Haggerty, McAvoy.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).