PICTURES EDDIE WHITHAM
WARRINGTON’S dismal start to the Super League season continued with a 22-8 defeat to newly promoted Leigh.
The Centurions restricted the Wolves to just one try to record the first win over their near neighbours in 29 years.
Tony Smith’s side were never at the races and were outplayed from virtually start to finish by Leigh, who registered their third win of the season.
It means Warrington have now lost five successive league games to open the season, with comparisons already being made to the struggles experienced by Leeds and Huddersfield last year that saw both finish in the bottom four.
Even the return of captain Chris Hill failed to inspire a turnaround in fortune for the Wolves, who started Kurt Gidley alongside Kevin Brown in the halves.
A barnstorming run by the excellent Gareth Hock laid the platform for Leigh’s opening score on six minutes, the former Wigan forward scoring the try himself a few plays later despite the attention of Hill and Ben Westwood.
Gidley, who in the first half wore a player cam for the Sky Sports television coverage, was then thundered to the ground with ball in hand, forcing the knock on, and Leigh broke on the free play, Ben Crooks kicking forward.
The on-loan Castleford centre was then on hand to take advantage of Tom Lineham’s inability to deal with the situation to romp over in the corner for 10-0.
Leigh were making good yards up the middle and the kicking of Josh Drinkwater kept the Wolves on the back foot.
The scorers weren’t troubled again until three minutes shy of the interval, when Rhys Evans was penalised for a high tackle, enabling Ben Reynolds to tag on another two points to the Centurions advantage.
Warrington ended the first half on top, forcing a drop out and then earning a kickable penalty on the hooter, which Gidley duly obliged to reduce arrears to 12-2 at half time.
The Wolves looked to build on that at the start of the second half but were dealt a blow seven minutes in when Brown was knocked out cold by a Glenn Stewart tackle that earned the big Australian a spell in the sin bin.
But towards the end of Stewart’s time on the sidelines, he was joined by Wolves winger Tom Lineham, who saw yellow for an elbow on Ryan Hampshire, who was judged to have held him back on a potential Warrington breakaway.
Lineham was perhaps fortunate not to have been dismissed, and during his absence Leigh stretched their lead.
Ryan Atkins was on hand to stop an interception break away by Crooks, but after Stewart went close on the right, Adam Higson had a walk in at the corner where Lineham would have been defending for 16-2.
Whatever Warrington did, Leigh had the answer, and they all but sealed the game on 67 minutes when man of the match Hock charged his way over for his second try.
The Wolves did at least manage to get a four-pointer on the board, Lineham over in the corner on his return to the field, but any faint hopes of a comeback were diminished when Reynolds tagged on another penalty goal to round off the scoring.
After the game Head Coach Tony Smith blamed “too many penalties and too many dropped balls” for yet another disappointing defeat.
He is hopeful Stefan Ratchford will return for next Friday’s clash with St Helens, to give some other options.
Leigh: Hampshire, Higson, Crooks, Brown, Dawson, Reynolds, Drinkwater, Hock, Higham, Acton, Vea, Stewart, Hansen. Subs: Pelissier, Tickle, Hopkins, Burr.
Warrington: Johnson, Russell, Evans, Atkins, Lineham, Brown, Gidley, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Hughes, Westwood, Westerman. Subs: Sims, Dwyer, Savelio, Livett.