Briers is back - Wolves look hungry for Wembley again
Warrington Wolves 52 Salford City Reds 6
By Alan Domville (picture by Neil Ashurst)
Warrington continued their bid for a fourth Wembley appearance in five years in August with a convincing win against Salford in the fifth round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup at the Halliwell Jones.
The game marked the return of Lee Briers, injured since the second game of the season, and he quickly made his mark when he came off the bench in the second half and scored a magical try.
He later kicked through to give Joel Monaghan his second touchdown soon after booting the ball almost the length of the field and following up to make the tackle.
Steady rain before and during the game made conditions greasy and both sides made uncharacteristic knocks-on throughout the afternoon.
Warrington, however, remained on the "high" that punished Huddersfield so effectively last week. Pound for pound the Salford pack looked heavier than the home six but they were completely outclassed as the platform for a big win was laid.
Reds owner Dr Marwan Koukash may have enjoyed outstanding success with one of his thoroughbreds at Chester a few days earlier but his charges, still smarting from their 40-point defeat at Wigan, were most definitely not at the races in this game.
In addition to Briers, Tony Smith was able to bring back into his squad Joel Monaghan who passed a fitness test after missing the Super League match at Huddersfield.
Danny Bridge is now back at Swinton while Ben Harrison, Adrian Morley, Chris Bridge and Rhys Evans are still sidelined. Stefan Ratchford and Richie Myler were lining up against their old club once again.
First names on new Salford coach Brian Noble's 19-man squad were the outstanding utility back Marc Sneyd and former Wolves player Martin Gleeson who each put pen to paper to extend their contracts during the past few days along with Darrell Griffin, transferred from Leeds in a deal that will keep him at the club for three-and-a-half years.
Ashley Gibson was preferred to Danny Williams while Shannan McPherson was out injured.
Salford spilled the ball in their first set and Wolves went straight on to the attack with Simon Grix, who won the sponsors' man of the match award for his tireless display, being tackled just short of the line.
A Richie Myler grubber then forced Salford to concede the first of many goal line drop- outs.
Wolves knocked on three times and conceded a penalty but the defence held firm and Myler scooted 50 metres upfield after making an interception.
On nine minutes Chris Hill opened the scoring when he swatted away the attentions of two defenders and crossed under the posts. Brett Hodgson added the extras.
Stefan Ratchford then created some space for Hodgson to make a fine break and he was able to put Joel Monaghan over for a try in the corner which he converted.
Soon afterwards Joel Monaghan was able to field his own "up and under" near the line and some soccer skills by Hodgson enabled him to just get a touch. The captain kicked another goal and Wolves were ahead 18-0 in as many minutes.
Powering his way through from 20 metres out, Bennie Westwood was held just short.
Salford's only riposte at this stage was to niggle - and ultimately referee Robert Hicks issued a team warning.
In the next Wolves raid Ratchford cleverly dummied his way over from close range and Hodgson converted.
Thirty three minutes had elapsed before Tony Smith made his first substitution, Garreth Carvell taking over from Chris Hill - a seamless change if ever there was one.
In the last two minutes of the half Warrington forced two more goal line drop outs and Ryan Atkins went over but the score was ruled out after the referee took advice from his touch and line judges that he had been tackled on his back.
Warrington had completed yet another half without conceding any points and straight from the restart it was clear they were going to attempt the same again.
Carvell kept the ball alive in the tackle and Micky Higham then crossed under the posts.
As Hodgson prepared what would be another successful kick, Micky took a breather and Briers came on to an ecstatic welcome.
Warrington almost increased their lead in their next attack but Myler's kick through was fisted dead in goal.
And then came a moment of sheer magic when Briers raced through the defence and touched down. Hodgson goaled and it was 36-0.
Another superb offload by Carvell was followed by a neat Hodgson kick through and Ratchford won the race for the ball to touch down. Hodgson made it seven kicks out of seven and the score 42-0.
Meanwhile the thin but enthusiastic Salford support amused themselves with some community singing.
They finally had something to cheer when Jodie Broughton raced over unopposed in the corner and he was able to take the ball to the sticks to give Lee Gaskell an easy conversion.
Briers then showed more great skill. His neat sliding kick was followed up by Joel Monaghan who was able to touch down.
Hodgson had sustained a knock earlier on and then limped off, giving Briers an opportunity to convert from the touchline but his kick was just wide.
With four minutes remaining Paul Wood raced on to a pass to bring up the 50 and this time Briers made no mistake with his kick. Immediately afterwards the Wolves talisman almost brought off an interception.
This was another fine display in attack and defence by the Wolves. The players are clearly hungry for yet another Wembley appearance.
Wolves' head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said: "It was a fairytale beginning for him (Briers) in the end rather than a fairytale ending. It is good to have him back; I think he slotted into what was a very good performance. I must compliment them (the players) not only on their defence - the defence has been improving and getting better and stronger each and every week, for the last number of weeks, they are very proud of what they are doing there - but I thought the attack was outstanding considering the conditions there today. I thought they came up with some smart plays, smart wet-weather Rugby League and handled the conditions and the opponents."
Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Simon Grix, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler; Paul Wood, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Mike Cooper
Substitutes: Garreth Carvell, Glenn Riley, Lee Briers, Ben Currie
Tries: Hill, Joel Monaghan (2), Hodgson, Ratchford (2), Higham, Briers, Wood
Goals: Hodgson (7), Briers
Marc Sneyd; Ashley Gibson, Martin Gleeson, Lee Gaskell, Jodie Broughton; Ryan McGoldrick, Theo Fages; Darrell Griffin, Wayne Godwin, Adam Walne, Matty Ashurst, Andrew Dixon, Stephen Wild
Substitutes: Jacob Emmitt, Liam Foran, Jordan James, Chris Nero
12, May, 2013