Rugby League Preview: Livewire Davies turns the tide

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WARRINGTON'S success so far this season has seen the collapse of two theories, one general and one particular to them.

The first is the old chestnut that one man does not make a team. The very least one can say about the arrival of Jonathan Davies at Wilderspool in the summer is that it has radically restructured them for the better. Warrington went to the top of the First Division for the first time in four years by beating Castleford last Friday and will return to first place if they beat Sheffield Eagles at the Don Valley Stadium this afternoon.

This would simply not be happening if Davies was not at Wilderspool. The most simplistic commentary on him is that his goal-kicking has won matches which would otherwise have been lost. His kicking, while good, is not in the Frano Botica class and he has been an even bigger contributor with the ball in his hands.

Warrington's problem since the appointment of Brian Johnson as coach almost exactly five years ago has been a lack of finishing power. Davies's wit and imagination near the opposition line has changed that at a stroke. The incisive quality that Davies has brought to the side is even spreading to others, something that is perhaps best illustrated by the confidence with which the previously unsung Rob Myler took the two tries that beat Castleford.

Which brings us to the second theory, the one that Johnson has always advanced to explain his side's inconsistency. 'We have always been capable of beating anyone in a one-off,' he used to say, and Warrington's record against Wigan, for instance, is one that bears him out. 'But it has taken so much out of us that we have gone into a slump for weeks afterwards.'

It's a theory he is now happy to discard. Warrington, with that touch of inspiration that Davies provides, can now win matches against good opposition without grinding out every point as painfully as in the recent past. The way that players like the prop Gary Chambers, the second-row Dave Elliott, and the utility back Iestyn Harris have developed since the smell of sweat became a little less overwhelming defines them as real contenders.

TODAY'S FIXTURES: (3.0 unless stated) Stones Bitter Championship: Bradford v Leeds; Castleford v Wakefield (3.30); Hull KR v Widnes (3.15); Leigh v Hull; Salford v Featherstone; Sheffield v Warrington (3.15); Wigan v Oldham. Second Division: Dewsbury v Huddersfield (3.30); Doncaster v Batley; Hunslet v Swinton (3.30); Keighley v Highfield (3.15); London Crusaders v Carlisle; Rochdale v Whitehaven; Ryedale York v Barrow (3.15); Workington v Bramley.

(Photograph omitted)