Wolves Nil Wigan On A Great Night For Super Ben
Warrington Wolves 20 Wigan Warriors 0
By Alan Domville (picture by Neil Ashurst)
Players from Warrington and Wigan renewed their traditional pre-season "friendly" rivalry at the Halliwell Jones to honour Super Bennie Westwood as part of his testimonial, awarded after his 10 years of tremendous performances in primrose and blue. Snow covered the pitch early in the morning but more than 50 volunteers worked hard to clear it to make sure the Betfred Challenge went ahead, giving both sides a valuable run out before the Super League kicks-off next week - and the exercise worked out beautifully for the Wolves who nilled the cherry and whites for the first time in many years.
It was decided to delay the kick-off for two hours to make sure the surface was 100 per cent playable and happily more than 4,000 fans turned up to contribute to a memorable night for the Wolves second-rower.
Only Trent Waterhouse and Chris Bridge were unavailable for selection for the Wolves.
Wigan, against whom Ben played in his first home game for Wolves, were without Harrison Hansen, Chris Tuson and Sean O'Loughlin, all recovering from injury, and Sam Tomkins.
Refereeing the game was Ben Thaler who attended the same school as Ben.
Back in April 2000, Ben made only his third Super League appearance as a substitute in a Wakefield side captained by Steve McNamara against Warrington and he was on the bench in the fixture in May 2001. Wakefield were then skippered by our first team coach Willie Poching.
Two months after that he appeared against us on the wing at Belle Vue - and exactly a year later both he and scrum half Nathan Wood joined Wolves.
After being paraded in front of the Warrington crowd on the afternoon we entertained - of all teams - Wakefield, the duo made their debut against London Broncos in Carcassonne a week later when Ben, playing at right centre, scored two tries.
I recall my colleague at the Guardian, Mike Parsons, expressing tremendous enthusiasm about Ben's performance that day and he has truly lived up to all his expectations since then - and more.
With a switch to the pack the great crowd favourite has developed into one of the finest second row forwards in the world.
Bennie was given a great reception this evening by both teams and the sizeable crowd that had assembled despite the cold. The great man entered the pitch with his children Tyler and Gracie.
Warrington were on the score sheet within two minutes when a Lee Briers kick to the corner was taken in the air by Joel Monaghan who touched down. Brett Hodgson added the extras.
Warrington lost the ball 20 metres from their line and from the scrum Wigan staged their first attack but the home defence stood firm.
Wigan then lost the ball in successive sets, the second time near their own line. Westwood took three defenders with him towards the line but was just held out.
Rhys Evans was grounded on his back in the next Wolves raid.
A penalty put Wolves in another attacking position and Richie Myler was stopped just short.
We were promised that both sides would hold nothing back and the tackling was certainly keen both in the first quarter and beyond - but Warrington assumed control and keptb it for most of the evening.
A good break by Rhys Evans from 20 metre restart took Wolves into Wigan territory again and the move ended with a Wigan goal line drop out.
It was all Warrington now and they made their pressure tell just over a minute from the interval when Evans went over in the corner.
Wolves had kept their line intact for a 40 minute period - a feat achieved so many times during the past three seasons. Could they repeat the feat in the second half? Absolutely! Chris Riley missed a great chance to score on his wing when he failed to hold the ball with the defence at sixes and sevens.
Two minutes later, however, Riley was over - but Ben Thaler spotted a forward pass in the move.
In the next raid, Hodgson followed up a Myler kick to the line and touched down after the ball had struck the post. Brett added the goal points and it was 16-0.
Wigan didn't trouble the home defence in the second period until 12 minutes from time; Anthony Gelling kicked towards the posts and followed up but couldn't regain possession.
A Wigan kick to the corner almost led to a score but Rhys Williams and Gareth O'Brien diffused the situation. A minute later Williams and Stefan Ratchford repeated the feat.
Appropriately, Bennie was blazing through the Wigan defence as he was announced as man of the match
With 47 seconds left on the clock Riley raced over in the corner and it was the man of the moment who took the conversion from the touchline. He didn't land the goal - but Wigan's evening of misery was complete.
The Betfred Challenge Trophy was presented to Adrian Morley and Super Ben.
Ben Westwood said: "Within an hour of putting it on Twitter and Facebook this morning there were 50 people down here with shovels and wheelbarrows, and I can't thank them enough for their support. It's fantastic. I couldn't believe it. It was thanks to them that the game went ahead. I take my hat off to them.
"We've only had one game against Widnes so we definitely needed a game before we go out next week. I needed a run out and a chance to blow off a few cobwebs, which I doid today. I'm looking forward to next week now."
Warrington: Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley,Ryan Atkins, Rhys Evans, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Simon Grix, Ben Westwood, Ben Harrison
Substitutes: Paul Wood, Stefan Ratchford, Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Michael Monaghan, Tyrone McCarthy, Rhys Evans, James Laithwaite, Gareth O'Brien, Rhys Williams, Ben Currie
Tries: Joel Monaghan, Rhys Evans, Brett Hodgson, Chris Riley
Goals: Brett Hodgson 2
Wigan: Jack Murphy; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, Jack Hughes, Pat Richards; Blake Green, Matty Smith; Lee Mossop, Logan Tomkins, Paul Prescott, Liam Farrell, Anythony Gelling, Ben Flower, Gil Dudson, Epalahame Luaki, Michael McIlorum, Greg Burke, Iain Thornley, Scott Taylor, Dom Crosby, Sam Powell, Tom Spencer, Lewis Tierney
Game Pictures - Click below.
26, Jan, 2013