By the end of 2017 I’d heard the phrase “let’s take the positives and move on to the next game” a little too often when it came to Warrington. So after the first game 2018 season I’ve actually surprised myself by thinking, you know what, there were some positives and I do indeed have a little hope. After all, without hope there’s nothing.
Strange though that there were some green shoots of recovery to be seen on a cold winter night at the Halliwell Jones as Warrington entertained the Champion Leeds Rhinos. Remember, Leeds are the reigning Grand Final Winners, so a tougher task Warrington could not have faced.
But before we look at the positives, let’s get the negatives out of the way. Stefan Ratchford will probably feel that this was his least competent display at fullback for many a game. Dropping the high ball, knocking on and missing a one on one tackle on Ryan Hall constitutes a triumvirate of errors. But one man doesn’t make a team and he alone is not responsible for the defeat. The game will in all likelihood be remembered more for Ryan Atkins’ attempts at a flamboyant dive, which, to put politely, failed. Warrington’s kicking on the final play was an unadventurous repetitive high ball. Sure Leeds had the young Jack Walker at the back and he had to be tested. But after he’d passed the first 7 or 8 tests you’d surely think of changing the approach. Only once did he slip up, right at the end, and it cost Leeds a try, but not the match – he was quite rightly named man of the match and the Wolves will be even more disappointed in their failure to entice him over the Pennines in the off season. Warrington also lacked a little fluidity at times but that’s to be expected with a new half-back combination in their first competitive game.
So what of the positives? Stood in the South Stand many would say that there were none, but I’d disagree. Tyrone Roberts looks good already, he sees the game, he doesn’t just play it. This gives him more time than average. In time, those around him will play better off him and because of him. That’s certain. Bryson Goodwin scored and can kick goals, so that’s great. Other than the odd missed tackle, the defence looked stronger. We kept the champions to 16 points, 6 of which came from a breakaway try. The defence of the Rhinos was better, but the Wire looked like they’d improved.
I hate to take positives from a defeat and would much rather taste the joy of victory. But this is round one, against the Champions. Over the next two games we’ll see whether or not there has been any marked improvement when we play Huddersfield and Widnes.
It’ll take time for change to happen. But we must be pleased that at least Warrington have accepted the need to change and acted upon it. We can only offer our support in the meantime and with players to come back, get fit and learn combinations, I think that I can already see the green shoots even on the coldest night.