Warrington kept a firm grip on the Challenge Cup trophy they won for the second time in three years last August and it will take a far more resolute performance than Salford managed yesterday to loosen it.
Without really breaking sweat, the Wolves had this fifth-round tie won inside the first 25 minutes with four converted tries and were then able to relax. Stefan Ratchford scored two tries against the club that produced him and Brett Hodgson finished with 18 points from a try and seven goals, but the reality was that they had almost nothing to beat. By comparison with the magnificence of the Huddersfield-Leeds epic Cup tie on Saturday, this was strictly a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.
Fans cannot be expected to flock back to the Cup if it is played with this lack of intensity. After a messy start by both sides, the holders got rolling with a 10th-minute try from Chris Hill. Two minutes later, Hodgson’s break through some non-existent defence allowed Joel Monaghan to stroll in and it already looked ominous for the Reds.
It was even worse after a farce of a third try, Hodgson, Monaghan and Richie Myler all having a kick of the ball, before Hodgson touched down and landed his third goal. The tie already looked to be over and Salford hardly seemed to care. Ratchford was next with a close-range try against his former club as the Wolves continued to rack up the scores with embarrassing ease.
On the rare occasions Salford threatened in attack their execution was woeful, although a spell in the Warrington 20-metre zone gave them some respite from their continuous defensive duties.
Ryan Atkins had one disallowed just before the interval, but the in-form hooker Micky Higham got the Wolves moving forward again early in the second half. The two loudest cheers of the afternoon were when Lee Briers came on for his first game since a career-threatening neck injury in February and when he scored a typically cheeky try soon after.
Ratchford claimed his second, from Hodgson’s kick through, as Brian Noble sat and squirmed at the lack of passion he has inherited as Salford’s new coach.
It was scant consolation that Jodie Broughton finally got them on the scoreboard with a try after Ratchford lost the ball but Warrington still had the last word through Monaghan and Paul Wood.
Warrington: Hodgson; Monaghan, Grix, Atkins, C Riley; Ratchford, Myler; Wood, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Cooper. Substitutes used: Briers, Carvell, Currie, G Riley.
Salford: Sneyd; Gibson, Gleeson, Gaskell, Broughton; McGoldrick, Fages; Griffin, Godwin, Walne, Ashurst, Dixon, Wild. Substitutes used: Emmitt, Foran, James, Nero.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham)