Pictures Eddie Whitham
WARRINGTON Wolves hopes of finishing top of the Super League table are all but gone after slipping to a 21-10 defeat to leaders St Helens.
A low-scoring contest was finely poised at 6-6 before Saints took advantage of a Jake Mamo mistake to steal the initiative and they managed to hold out for the win.
An entertaining game in front of a packed house at the Halliwell Jones Stadium wasn’t without controversy though, Mark Percival’s try for St Helens coming off a forward pass to the anger of the home fans.
Warrington started the game with their tails up, but were held up by an unfortunate injury to visiting hooker Aaron Smith inside the first three minutes, who was treated on the floor for several minutes before being stretchered off not to return.
Already missing key man and captain James Roby, losing their second choice hooker undoubtedly disrupted Saints who brought on James Bentley in his place.
The Wolves kept on the front foot and huffed and puffed in the opening quarter, but just couldn’t blow the Saints house down.
They were restricted to a couple of simple penalties from Dec Patton to go 4-0 in front, a scoreline that Saints were probably the happier with when the sides went in at half-time.
St Helens finally got a foothold in the game in the second half, and it continued as a real arm wrestle with very few clear cut chances.
They seized the advantage when Jack Hughes was sinbinned for a shoulder to head contact on Tommy Makinson, with Percival crossing off Jonny Lomax’s pass while Warrington were at a numerical disadvantage.
A superb touchline conversion from Lachlan Coote tied things up at 6-6 and the game entered the final 15 minutes with potential to go either way.
Warrington were gifted a real chance to nudge ahead with a drop goal by a knock-on half way, only for Patton to kick early in the tackle count and they were made to regret that decision.
Having struggled to wrestle sufficient field position of their own, Saints were restricted to kicking high on the last looking to force an error and so it proved. A high kick by Lomax was fielded by Mamo, who fumbled the ball under a strong hit by Lomax and Luke Thompson scooped up the loose ball and found his way to the line.
That left the hosts shellshocked, and they were guilty of naive defending shortly after when Coote was able to kick a drop goal from dummy half from short range to give them a 13-6 advantage.
The two-score lead was shortlived, as from Blake Austin’s short kick-off, Mamo scooped up the loose ball and skinned two defenders close to the touchline, and though Patton missed a kickable conversion, it was game on at 13-10 with four minutes to play.
But Warrington didn’t get a chance to go for the comeback, an error at the play the ball by Joe Philbin gifting Saints field position they wouldn’t waste, Alex Walmsley crashing over to extend their lead at the top of the table to eight points.
Warrington: Mamo, Lineham, Goodwin, King, Charnley, Austin, Patton, Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Akauola. Subs: Davis, Philbin, J Clark, Tasi.
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Smith, Thompson, Knowles, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Paulo, Amor, Lees, Bentley.