Smith expects Wolves riposte
21st September 2012
Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith is expecting a trademark response from his Challenge Cup-winning team as they look to keep alive their dream of completing a rare double.
The Wolves were hoping to have this weekend off after securing a top-two finish in Super League for the second successive year but last week's opening play-off defeat by St Helens has forced them into a sudden-death tie with Hull FC at the Halliwell Jones Stadium tomorrow evening.
It is almost 18 months since the Wolves last suffered back-to-back defeats and Smith is confident they are not about to blot their copybook now.
"We're into sudden-death one week before we'd have liked," he said. "I'd rather have a kick in the teeth last weekend than in two weeks' time had we squeezed through on a sub-standard performance.
"From now on, we know we have to perform as well as we can but we dust ourselves off pretty quickly.
"What we've been able to do in the last couple of years when we've had a performance that we've not been quite so pleased with is bounce back with a fairly decent one afterwards.
"I don't think we've suffered too many back-to-backs and we don't want to be starting now."
Warrington are seeking to become the first team to complete the league and cup double since St Helens achieved the feat in 2006 and Smith is hoping his side's proven ability in knock-out football can take them all the way to Old Trafford.
"We've been able to do it in a different competition, it's being able to do it in two different competitions that most teams have found tough for the last number of years," he said.
"We're hopeful of being that first one for a while."
Warrington lost 40-6 at home to Hull in their only previous play-off meeting back in 2005, when Andrew Johns made the last of his three guest appearances for them, and they have a woeful Grand Final series record of just two wins from 10 ties.
Unlike Warrington, Hull have Grand Final experience and coach Peter Gentle is hoping to emulate his fellow countryman Peter Sharp by taking them all the way to Old Trafford in his first season in charge.
The Black and Whites had a mid-season wobble when they won one of seven games but appear to be hitting their straps at the right time, having piled up 152 points in their last three matches and considerably tightened their defence.
"There is a calmness about the squad," said Gentle.
"We know what we have to do if we want to still be here next week and there is a real confidence about the place.
"We've only conceded five tries in the last three weeks and we are getting that steeliness back in our defence. There is a good attitude there and that's what you'd expect at this time of year.
"The boys are excited and there's a real genuine belief that we can do something special in the play-offs.
"Getting a win away to Warrington would be special and it's a game we are all looking forward to."
Smith argues that Hull's 46-6 play-off rout of Huddersfield Giants should be put into context but acknowledges they are starting to find some form.
"Hull were very good, their opponents not so good," he said. "It's hard to gauge but they've obviously put it together.
"They've had some pretty solid performances and they've got some dangerous players. They'll be confident and feeling good about their performance from Sunday."
Hull are set to be unchanged, with forwards Danny Tickle and Sam Moa both failing to recover from bicep injuries, while Warrington are without prop forward Garreth Carvell.