Warrington 38-20 Leigh: Another eight-point try and an eight-minute hat-trick as Wire win again
A quickfire hat-trick from Matty Ashton in the second half sealed an ultimately comfortable win for Warrington at home to Leigh.
The Leopards were still well in the game at half time, despite trailing 22-8, but Ashton’s treble within eight minutes soon after the break put paid to any hopes of them pulling off a win.
Warrington had set the tone with a blistering score inside 32 seconds, as Matt Dufty seared away down the right hand side from deep in his own half and found Josh Drinkwater on his inside, with the Australian scrum-half winning the foot race to the corner to claim his first Wolves try.
They added further first half tries through Paul Vaughan, Stefan Ratchford and Drinkwater, with Josh Charnley and Tom Briscoe touching down for the visitors.
Another eight-point try
Eight-point tries are like buses at Warrington, although unfortunately often only 75% finished.
After earning a remarkable two of them in the recent home win over Salford, they were once again given the extra shot at goal following a second half Matty Ashton try. Ashton ploughed in at the corner but was tackled high by John Asiata in the process, meaning Stefan Ratchford had the chance to add an extra two in front of the posts.
But just as he did against Salford a couple of weeks ago, Ratchford missed the tricky conversion and as such, the eight-point try was only a six-point try.
It really ought to be renamed.
MORE: Verdict: Eight-point try double for Warrington explained
As was the case against Salford, Ratchford’s conversion miss meant little to the final outcome, and he more than had a hand in Ashton’s hat-trick of tries.
The first came on 43 minutes when on the last tackle, Ben Currie popped out an unlikely offload for Ashton to score in the corner. Great hands by Ratchford set up his second, and then a long Danny Walker pass created space for Ashton to cross for a third in the 51st minute as the Wolves opened up a 38-8 lead.
If Warrington carry on playing like that, Ashton will finish with a boatload this season.
For the first time this season, Leigh were able to play their first-choice back line for successive games as Joe Mellor continued his return at half-back with Lachlan Lam. Gareth O’Brien was selected at full-back, with Zak Hardaker in the centres alongside Ricky Leutele, and prolific experienced Super League campaigners Tom Briscoe and Josh Charnley on the flanks.
Although the game got away from them in the second half, there was more than enough to suggest that the Leopards will have a potent attacking threat throughout the season.
It will certainly be a lot more potent than mascot Leeto the Leopard, who struggled to chase down Wolfie waving a leopard-print jacket in the pre-game entertainment, as Tom Jones’ “what’s new pussycat” blared out from the oft-too loud speakers at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
A lovely delayed pass by Mellor helped create the first try for Briscoe, and when the game was long but done, Leigh were able to open up the Wolves defence with a couple of decent plays in the final quarter.
Friday night entertainment
The Wolves gained plaudits for the infamous “Whizzy Rascal” show last year, that saw the match ball brought on to the field by a kid in an electric mini-car in hilarious circumstances live on Sky Sports.
That piece of sponsorship activation was a shining example to others, and a key reason why stadium sponsors Halliwell Jones opted to renew their long-standing deal with the club on improved terms no less.
While the half-time activation of main sponsor Hoover is perhaps less newsworthy – a fan gets a chance to throw as many balls in to an open washing machine as he can inside an alloted time – its another fine example of doing things right.
I like nothing more than a half-time event where the crowd can get involved, especially when the Wire fan chosen announced he wanted to win the washing machine so his wife could do his washing. After his paltry score of one, surely to beaten through the year, left his hopes in tatters, when asked what else he might like, he proclaimed a “new wife.” We’ll keep him anonymous, just in case.
While something must be done about Super League’s lack of weekend action in general, tonight was not a night for that argument.
A crowd of 12,073 and a packed hospitality suite highlighted just why the top clubs like Friday nights.
The worries about how it excludes the next generation are perhaps for another time.
Whizzy Rascal: Remembering some of Warrington’s marketing stunts
Not a happy return
Leigh included five former Wire players in their 17, four of which have made the move to Leigh Sports Village within the past year.
Winger Josh Charnley had lit the blue touch paper for an interesting re-union when he proclaimed he came close to retiring during Warrington’s dire campaign in 2022, that he exited midway through to join the then-Centurions.
Coach Adrian Lam said: “Emotion always plays some sort of part in a game but I’ve spoken to those guys about not making it an emotional revisit with it being their first Super League game back there.
“It’s about making sure that we stick to the plan and play the way we play without being over-emotional about the occasion.”
Lam largely got his wish, as Leigh were pretty emotionless in the second half before a late flurry of scores with the Wolves down to 12 men following the sin-bin to Sam Kasiano.
Prior to that, there had been some niggle, particularly with Charnley, who had a bit of afters with Matt Dufty in the first half, while Jack Hughes was clearly out to rattle a few in his first stint.
Edwin Ipape had been yellow carded midway through the second half for a tip tackle on Daryl Clark.
Another man who got in a bit of trouble with the referee was Leigh assistant coach Tony Clubb.
Clubb got a real telling off from Ben Thaler in the first half, presumably for something he said following the incident between Dufty and Charnley.
MORE: Cardtracker: Every yellow and red card in Super League this season
Warrington 38-20 Leigh – Line-ups and scorers
Warrington: Dufty, Thewlis, Mata’utia, Ratchford, Ashton, Williams, Drinkwater, Mikaele, Clark, Vaughan, Currie, Nicholson, Kasiano. Subs: Philbin, Walker, Minikin, Thomas. 18th man: Whitehead.
Tries: Drinkwater, Vaughan, Ratchford, Dufty, Ashton 3. Goals: Ratchford 5
Leigh: O’Brien, Briscoe, Hardaker, Leutele, Charnley, Mellor, Lam, Amone, Davis, Mulhern, Shorrocks, O’Donnell, Asiata. Subs: Nakubuwai, Seumanufagai, Hughes, Ipape. 18th man: Chamberlain.
Tries: Briscoe, Charnley, Amone, Hardaker. Goals: Hardaker 2.