Season Review: Warrington Wolves
For the second year in a row, Warrington Wolves’ season ended in a home defeat on the opening night of the play-offs.
Quite how a team with so much quality can produce such an abject performance was the question on the lips of all Wolves fans following that loss.
Hull FC – who were only in the play-offs because of a late change in format – outplayed Steve Price’s side and condemned them to another season of disappointment.
At one stage, 2020 had promised so much. Wolves won eight in a row to climb to the top of Betfred Super League, but their momentum stalled with defeats to Salford Red Devils and Wigan Warriors.
They did return to winning ways by beating both Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants. Although they were hardly convincing wins, and many saw the play-off defeat to Hull FC coming.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the partnership of Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop. The pair had some nice moments at times, but they weren't the all-conquering duo that Price would have hoped for.
It's important not to be too negative. After all, Wolves did finish the season in third. On their day, they remain the closest side to Saints and Warriors. Their victory over the former back in February was one of the highlights of the season.
Matty Ashton was a superb acquisition - what a player he is going to be. A word also for Toby King, who is arguably Super League's best centre.
Looking ahead to 2021, it may well be Price's last chance at Super League glory. There were some Wire fans calling for his removal after the play-off loss, but his team definitely showed the improvement required for him to deserve another chance.
Player of the year
Mike Cooper is one of Super League's most underrated props. He is capable of getting through 80 minutes - playing at the same intensity throughout. He finished the season with 37 offloads, which was only bettered by teammate King. Head coach Price described Cooper as “playing the best footy of his career” in 2020. It’s hard to argue with such an assumption. Cooper was rewarded for his efforts with a place in the 2020 Super League Dream Team.
Remember February? A different world to the Covid-19 driven environment Super League was forced to operate in post-lockdown. Over 12,000 fans watched Wolves humble Saints at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. The Wire dominated all facets of the game - ‘nilling’ their rivals in the process. The 19-0 victory included tries from Daryl Clark, Tom Lineham and Josh Charnley. It was the first time that Saints had been left scoreless in a match since August 2016. Exactly the kind of performance that Wolves failed to regularly replicate at the back end of the season.
No entry ⛔ The Wire nil the Champs @WarringtonRLFC 19-0 St Helens #SuperLeague pic.twitter.com/bJT5nCrX3K
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) February 7, 2020
There is no doubt that 2020 was a disappointing season for Wolves. A run of eight wins in a row had raised hopes that an elusive Super League title was within their grasp. However, as they often do, Wolves fell away and crashed out in the first week of the play-offs with a whimper. Saints and Warriors seem to have stolen a march on them and they face huge challenge in 2021 to overcome their rivals.