Smith staying grounded
Warrington Wolves are on the verge of hitting the Super League summit for the first time this season with three rounds to go, but coach Tony Smith is not getting carried away by the prospect.
The Wolves, currently enjoying a nine-match winning run in the league, can leapfrog Huddersfield Giants into top spot if they make it 10 out of 10 at the expense of Widnes Vikings in tomorrow's derby at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
But the Giants face bottom club London Broncos on Saturday and meet other teams outside the top eight in their last two fixtures of the regular season and so remain firm favourites to collect their first league leaders' shield.
Smith, who guided Warrington to the shield in 2011, insists he would be happy to finish anywhere in the top three, pointing to the experience of Leeds Rhinos, who have won back-to-back titles from fifth place.
"Top spot is possible but Huddersfield are in a great position," Smith said. "We're not too focused on that.
"If they happen to take their eye off the ball at some stage it would be nice but they've been very good at not doing that and we're not expecting anything to come from it.
"We're happy with wherever we finish - first, second or third, it's no huge advantage I don't think.
"There is some prestige to it but it's in Huddersfield's hands and what Leeds have done is shown everybody that it doesn't really matter where you finish, it's how you approach the final series.
"There's a little bit of an advantage there but it's not surmountable and Leeds have proven that."
Warrington piled up 166 points in three meetings with the Vikings in 2012 but suffered a shock 38-22 loss at the Halton Stadium on Good Friday and Smith remains wary of a side who, despite sitting 11th, are the fifth highest scorers in Super League so far this year.
"We'll have a healthy respect for them," Smith said. "They're a terrific attacking team.
"They're a very dangerous team and the key for us is to try not to turn over too much ball in good field position, otherwise Widnes will make you pay.
"The last time they made us pay. We need to learn a few lessons from the last time."
Widnes have lost centre Stefan Marsh for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder suffered in Sunday's 42-38 home defeat by Castleford Tigers, which has reduced coach Denis Betts' squad to the bare bones.
"Having one of the smallest squads in the competition and being expected to play on Sunday and then back up the following Thursday against one of the best teams in Super League is a big ask," Betts said.
"We also picked up a couple of bangs, bumps and bruises across the team, and to make matters worse, we've lost Stefan Marsh for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder.
"Rather than sit there and feel sorry for ourselves, we've just got to get back up, dust ourselves down, get on with it and move forward."
Smith, who is without his first-choice half-backs as well as captain Adrian Morley through injury, is not about to offer sympathy to his rival.
"We've heard all that before," he said. "We went over there and they did a fair job on us last time so there won't be too many tears shed over how many players he has missing.
"They've had a day less than us - they would have had the option to change a fixture like us and I presume opted not to - but overall the picture is similar, three games in 12 days for both teams.
"It's a big ask in rugby league terms but you roll your sleeves up and get on with it. Both teams have a good break after it and it's a matter of who can aim up and concentrate the best on Thursday."