Pictures Eddie Whitham
WARRINGTON Wolves were made to work for a 23-16 win over Wakefield on Friday night that keeps their hopes alive of finishing in Super League’s top two.
It looked like being a routine win when they led 16-0 at half-time, but the relegation haunted visitors made a real go of it in the second half, with only a Dec Patton drop goal in the closing stages eventually giving the hosts breathing space.
Tributes were paid to the retiring Ben Westwood at the final home game of the regular season, with thousands of fans staying behind after the match to hear from the long-serving forward.
A tribute Haka, led by Kylie Leuluai, was performed in front of the former Wakefield man, who hangs up his boots next month after 17 years in the primrose and blue.
He wasn’t selected in Steve Price’s 17 man team, though Blake Austin did make a timely return to action with the play-offs just a fortnight away.
With eight defeats in their last 10 league outings, it was a sluggish start by Warrington and they were forced to drop out from under their own posts twice by Trinity in the opening quarter.
They would take the lead though on 17 minutes, having been gifted possession by Wakefield. A sloppy pass out of dummy half went high over Danny Brough, and though Jacob Miller recovered it under his own posts, his kick from his own 10 metre line went straight out on the full.
From the subsequent play the ball, Daryl Clark showed the ball right and went himself to force over for the first try.
The manner of the try wobbled Wakefield and five minutes later, Warrington were 10-0 to the good, Ben Currie taking a couple of tacklers over the line with him to ground the ball in the far corner.
It was 16-0 by half-time, Josh Charnley winning his personal duel with ex-Wigan team-mate Ryan Hampshire close to the right touchline after a nice pass by Toby King.
The discussion over how many Warrington would win by was soon ended by a superb start to the second half by the visitors, who dragged themselves back in the game.
Lively French full-back Morgan Escare, on loan from Wigan, took a Craig Kopczak offload over the line for their first try and then Ben Jones-Bishop took on a lovely tip pass by Reece Lyne to reduce the gap to just four.
After forcing a drop out, Warrington steadied the ship, Currie playing a pivotal part in creating the space for a Bryson Goodwin walk in on the left.
But that wasn’t the end of Wakefield’s resolve and on 63 minutes, they reduced the score to 20-16 when Hampshire, somewhat controversially, was deemed to have grounded a heavy kick by Kyle Wood for a try that may well not have stood had the game been televised.
Wakefield weren’t stopping to ask questions and they continued to probe the Warrington defence, until a knock on gave Wolves the crucial field position that led to a penalty for Stefan Ratchford to stretch the lead out to six.
On 72 minutes, Patton’s one-pointer left Wakefield needing to score twice, and despite them going close having recovered a short re-start, it was too much for them.
The win keeps Warrington third, above Salford, needing a win next week at Leeds and hope that Wigan lose at home to Castleford to grab second.
Warrington: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, King, Charnley, Austin, Patton, Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Currie, Murdoch-Masila, J Clark. Subs: Philbin, Akauola, Smith, Mamo.
Wakefield: Escare, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundel, Hampshire, Miller, Brough, Kopczak, Randell, Tangata, Kirmond, Tanginoa, Crowther. Subs: Green, Gwaze, King, Wood.