As we enter the crucial months of the season, there is still plenty to be excited about in the Betfred Super League.
Whether it be Castleford, Warrington and Wigan fighting for a spot in the end-of-season play-offs or Leeds, Hull KR Salford and Widnes fighting tough Championship competition to preserve their top flight status, so much is still undecided.
Over the next few days, we will be examining the season so far for all 12 Super League clubs, as they head into the ‘Super 8s split’. Next up is Warrington Wolves.
Position after 23 rounds: 4th
Record this year: W14 D1 L8 Pts29
Points: F531 A410 PD121
Season in Summary
After a torrid 2017, Warrington parted company with Tony Smith. Former St George Illawarra Dragons coach Steve Price was the man bought in to replace him, with many players shown the door. Price made his impact with new signings from down under, including Tyrone Roberts, Sitaleki Akaoula and Bryson Goodwin, followed by Tongan powerhouse Ben Murdoch-Masila from Salford.
Warrington’s season started slowly, and some people thought they were picking up where they left off in 2017. Their first victory came away in the Cheshire derby against Widnes, which was followed by a home victory at home to their other bitter rivals, Wigan.
The club showed their intent with the signing of Josh Charnley, with the former Wigan winger returning from rugby union where he played for the Sale Sharks. The confidence grew from there with the Wire going on a ten-game unbeaten run that was ended at the hands of Wigan at Magic Weekend. They certainly got their own back on the Warriors though when the Wolves nilled Shaun Wane’s men in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Eventually Warrington settled into a top four spot, despite an inconsistent end to the regular season. They claimed their place at Wembley after beating the Leeds Rhinos 48-12 in the Challenge Cup semi-final.
Best Result – Huddersfield Giants (H)
This was mid-season, at the end of April, with confidence building strongly. At this point, Josh Charnley had enjoyed five weeks to settle in at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and in this 38-4 home victory against the Giants, the Warrington number 27 scored a hat-trick of tries.
This was Warrington’s eighth win in their ten-game unbeaten run and was a comprehensive reversal of the defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium in the second week of the season that had so badly exposed some of the faults that Steve Price had needed to fix.
Let’s start with Josh Charnley, the former Wigan man has been a huge influence in Warrington’s success so far in 2018, scoring 12 tries from 15 Super League appearances and a further eight in the Challenge Cup. He has been the try machine Warrington have needed and as much as Tom Lineham is a brilliant winger, we all know what Josh Charnley can do!
Stefan Ratchford is always the first name on the Warrington team sheet but 2018 has been his season, setting the benchmark for full-backs alongside Ben Barba of St Helens. His ability to run at the line and break tackles is second to none and his standards never slip game-by-game. A fantastic asset to the Warrington side, he has definitely been a stand out player in 2018.
Prop Mike Cooper has had the season of his life and like Ratchford never lets his standards slip, as a brilliant metre maker in the Wire team who has also contributed four tries. After signing a new two-year contract extension in pre-season, Cooper will be very excited to finish the season strongly with two trophies still to play for.
Things to work on
Warrington have tweaked the way they score tries since Price has come in, choosing to run hard down the middle, but they still love to throw the ball about. One issue with their attack is when games are tight the Wolves struggle to kill games off, as has been proved twice in recent weeks away at Wigan and St Helens where they fell short, 13-12 and 14-12.
Warrington’s defence used to be something everyone were concerned with, but as each week goes by their back line gets tighter and tighter and the Wolves are nearing the complete side.
What to expect going into the 8s
Without consistency, Warrington could see themselves slip with the Huddersfield Giants in extremely good form. The Wire have a fair bit of breathing space being six points above Simon Woodford’s side, but they still cannot afford to take any games for granted.
With Warrington facing Catalans Dragons at home in their first 8s game, will both use it as a practice for the Challenge Cup final or will the two competition points be the top priority? A question yet to be answered, but we shall see this coming Friday night.
A second place finish is still something Warrington can achieve, giving them home advantage in a Super League semi-final, but they will have to leapfrog both Wigan and Castleford to get there.
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