Smith wary of bruised Saints
Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith is urging caution as his table-topping team aim to complete a first Engage Super League double over St Helens in tomorrow’s sold-out derby at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The Wolves ended their hoodoo against their arch rivals in the third match of the season with a first away win of the summer era and expectations are high as they look to repeat that success on home soil.
Victory would take Warrington five points clear of the 2006 champions and leave them sweating over a top-four spot as fifth-placed Leeds Rhinos look to keep up the pressure when they host Bradford Bulls in another derby tomorrow.
Smith is steadfastly refusing to write off Saints, however, saying: “Before our last outing with them, I said you’ve got to play well to beat St Helens and I stick by that.
“They’re still a very good team. Whether we won last time or not really makes no difference, we’re going to have to go out there and play very well to give ourselves a chance of getting a victory.
“This club has played well on occasions and been beaten by them and that can still happen.”
St Helens had the chance to go top of the table a week ago but were left licking their wounds after a 32-10 home defeat by Wigan Warriors and coach Royce Simmons acknowledges his side face another stern test of their title credentials.
“They are at the peak of their game,” he said. “Outside the odd game here and there, they have been fantastic and their defence has been good.
“It doesn’t worry me coming out of the Wigan game, though. We go into the game confident. It is a bonus to come out of an intensive game and roll into another one.
“But we need to crank it up a level. Our ball control has to be better and we need to push up around the play the ball too.”
Leeds will be aiming to complete a hat-trick of wins over the Bulls after getting the better of their rivals twice already this year but coach Brian McDermott, a former Bradford stalwart, admits both results could have gone either way.
“We have had two really tight tussles with them already this year and I am expecting nothing less on Friday night,” he said.
“The derby game is something that dictates that, regardless of form, both teams will be at the top of their game.
“It is always a fantastic atmosphere and, as a player, it was always a game you enjoyed playing in.”
Bradford’s mini revival was halted by Hull FC last Sunday, when they missed the chance to climb into the top eight, but coach Mick Potter is confident his side can succeed where they failed in Cardiff and at Odsal.
“We have come close but close is not good enough,” he said. “We need to be a lot better and I feel we have improved as a side since we last played them.
“We aren’t going into the game thinking ’third-time lucky’. We know we need to fight to win the game because they are just not going to let you take it off them.”
Bottom club Crusaders RL will also be looking to complete a hat-trick when Salford City Reds visit the Racecourse Ground tomorrow.
The Reds lost to the Welsh club at the Millennium Stadium and at the Willows and, in fact, have not beaten them in any of their last five Super League meetings.
But Salford have won two of their last three matches and will once more be unchanged as they seek to revive their play-off prospects.
“Salford are an efficient side,” said Crusaders coach Iestyn Harris. “We went very well against them at the Magic Weekend but they gave us a really good game at their place.
“It was a tough, relentless game that took 38 minutes for someone to score points. We are expecting the same again.
“I watched them against Castleford Tigers and Warrington the week before and they are coming pretty close in games. They are starting to pick results up here and there and we’ve got to make sure that we are right mentally.”