St Helens head coach Paul Wellens has tipped Warrington Wolves to return to their best for the business end of the Super League season.
The reigning champions claimed a 24-20 victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium during Super League Round 18, although it was a much-improved performance from the hosts despite the defeat.
Daryl Powell’s side opened the 2023 campaign with an unbeaten run of eight games to sit at the top of the Super League table, with wins over Leeds, Huddersfield, Salford, Hull KR, Leigh, Castleford, Hull and Catalans.
However following the Round Nine 13-6 defeat to Wigan, the side have since claimed just three wins, dropping to fifth on the Super League table – although still on level points with the Warriors and the Saints above with 22.
Warrington have of course been hampered by off-field drama this year, including the release of overseas star recruit Josh McGuire following his second lengthy suspension for unacceptable language in his debut season in Super League.
In-form prop Thomas Mikaele also left the club on compassionate grounds earlier in April, returning to Australia and linking up with the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL.
He has made just one appearance back in the competition Down Under.
St Helens boss tips Warrington to return to ‘dangerous’ threat
Friday night’s clash at the Halliwell Jones Stadium saw a much stronger Warrington display, even without marquee half-back George Williams, who has been sidelined for the last fortnight with a hamstring injury.
Having found themselves 12-6 down at the break, the Wire fought back to lead 20-12 before tries from opposition halves Jonny Lomax and Lewis Dodd saw Saints claim their 11th win of the season.
Full-back Matt Dufty had one his strongest games of the season, scoring a try of the season contender, while England international Matty Ashton scored twice to take his season tally to 15.
“If I’m honest with you, I never once thought at any point of the season that they weren’t going to be dangerous contenders,” Wellens said on Warrington post-match.
“If you look at the Super League season as a whole, every club has gone through moments where they’ve had tough times, ourselves included.
“Warrington are going through one of those at the moment in terms of picking up results.
“But if you look at the effort levels and the way they’re competing, but for the first 10 or 15 minutes against Leeds last week, they were right in the game and working so hard for each other.
“I thought against us, it was there for all to see that that’s not a team that lacks effort.
“They’re going to be dangerous on the back end of the year, for sure.”