The early season league leaders returned to the Halliwell-Jones Stadium as the Warrington Wolves took on the Salford Red Devils in the Thursday night match with the visitors knowing that a win by twenty-four points or more would see them spend the evening at the top of the pile.
The Wolves were defending a one hundred percent start to the season but the Red Devils were looking for a return to winning ways after their defeat at the hands of Hull KR last time out.
The home side were clear favourites to continue Daryl Powell´s rise from pariah to messiah, but with just a ten point start on the coupon the bookies weren´t sure that the Wolves would have it all their own way.
Ben Currie opened the evenings scoring on seven minutes when he chased a George Williams grubber kick to the corner to ground one-handed before the Salford cover could get back. Stefan Ratchford added the conversion for a 6-0 lead, the home side delighting their supporters with another great start to the game.
Salford struck back on eleven when loanee, from Warrington, Ellis Longstaff took a long pass from Joe Burgess in an acre of space to spin over the line under and ankle challenge. Marc Sneyd added the conversion, and the sides were all square.
On twenty-two Ken Sio took a chance when he came out of the line and picked up a Williams looping pass five from his own line. The free scoring winger broke for ten metres before passing inside to Ryan Brierley who went the remaining eighty metres to score. Sneyd was again on target, the Red Devils with a 12-6 lead.
Fur minutes later and the Red Devils were in again, Sneyd scoring a soft try as he dissected the Wolves defence to run in on the angle from ten metres out. The Salford half back added a third goal for 18-6, the Wolves stunned.
Sneyd added a penalty goal on thirty-three to further extend the lead, the Red Devils in total control going into the interval.
Matty Ashton started the second half with a spectacular try as he leapt for the corner after taking a long miss-out pass from George Williams. Ratchford hit the far post with his conversion attempt, the Wolves now ten adrift.
The Wolves had started the second half like a team possessed.
But Salford had the next opportunity, spurned by Sneyd who put a simple looking penalty wide of the uprights.
Ryan Brierley was sin-binned on fifty-eight for slowing down the play-the-ball and soon after the penalty the Wolves were in for their third try of the game as Tom Mikaele crashed over the line from close. Ratchford was on target with the boot, the Salford lead pegged back to four points.
Dufty knocked on with an hour on the clock when he had a clear run in to the line but on sixty-three Josh Thewlis caught a Williams cross-field kick to go over in an ocean of space wide right. Dupree was late in with the knees after the ball was grounded, the video referee judged it an eight point try. Ratchford hit the far upright with the conversion attempt but hit the mark with the penalty, the Wolves two points ahead with fifteen minutes remaining.
The lead was extended on sixty-eight thanks to a Williams solo try from twenty-five metres as he ripped trough the Salford defence after taking the ball at first received from the back of the scrum. Ratchford added the conversion for 28-20 as the Red Devils returned to thirteen players on the field, having shipped in eighteen points in ten minutes.
Four minutes from time and the Wolves sealed the win with Matt Dufty going through a gap and diving over. Kallum Watkins tackled Dufty high in the act of scoring and the referee awarded another eight-point try. Ratchford hit the target twice with the kicks for 36-20,
Another game of two halves, Salford dominant in the first but Warrington serving up a second half masterclass as Salford faded badly, not helped by the Brierley sin-binning and a couple of rare eight point tries. Warrington are now two points clear at the top of the pile with the rest of the round to be played tomorrow evening, and the likelihood is that they will still be there tomorrow night. Salford are now just one win from three, despite looking in total control at half time, but this was Warrington´s game as they barely put a foot wrong in the second forty.
Warrington Wolves: Dufty, Thewlis (T), Minikin, Ratchford (4G), Ashton (T), Williams (T), Drinkwater, Mikaele (T), Clark, Vaughan, Currie (T), Mata´utia. Harrison. Subs: Kasiano, Walker, Bullock, Whitehead. 18th Man: Holroyd.
Salford Red Devils: Brierley (T, SB on 58), Sio, Cross, Lafai, Burgess, Croft, Sneyd (T, 4G), Ormondroyd, Ackers, Dupree, Watkins, Longstaff (T), Partington. Subs: Sidlow, Vuniyayawa, Atkin, Wright. 18th Man: Bourouh.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 6-10, 6-12, 6-16, 6-18, 6-20 : HT : 10-20, (SB), 14-20, 16-20, 20-20, 22-20, 26-20, 28-20, 32-20, 34-20, 36-20 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Warrington – Square – Salford – Square - Warrington.
Referee: Jack Smith.