Ryan Atkins returned to haunt former club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats with a brace of tries in Warrington Wolves’ 41-34 victory at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Sunday.
Stefan Ratchford and Joel Monaghan also scored two tries apiece, while Richie Myler completed Warrington’s seven-try success to leave Wakefield without a home win since their opening match on home soil against Hull KR.
Richard Agar’s men, with one win from their previous seven matches going into the game, showed plenty of spirit in twice battling back from seemingly dead-end positions to push Tony Smith’s men all the way.
Wildcats were within a converted try of their visitors with five minutes to go but Paul Sykes failed to find touch with a penalty and Brett Hodgson’s late drop goal sealed the points for Wolves.
Agar opted for Lee Smith at full-back with Richard Mathers out with a ruptured testicle, while Reece Lyne came in at centre. Skipper Danny Kirmond returned for Wakefield and Andy Raleigh replaced the suspended Justin Poore at prop.
Wildcats suffered a nightmare start when, just 70 seconds into the game, Atkins got on the end of his own grubber kick to touch down and give Warrington the early lead.
It got worse for Wakefield ten minutes later when Myler shrugged off a Raleigh tackle to break free and feed Ratchford for the next try.
Wakefield needed a reply and they got one when Sykes powered over the whitewash from the hosts’ first threatening raid on the Warrington line.
But the first 20 minutes belonged to Wolves and Atkins went over for his second try of the match, and his tenth in his last five games against Wakefield, before Joel Monaghan scored to cement Warrington’s dominance.
It left Wildcats with a mountain to climb but climb it they did and a brace of Peter Fox tries got the hosts right back into the game at half-time.
Some slick Wildcats passing had the former Hull KR man in for his ninth try of the season and his tenth soon followed. A big Warrington kick on the last tackle bounced favourably for Wakefield and Fox managed to break away and win a foot race with Atkins from halfway to score.
The hosts took their forward momentum into the second half and, after a big spell of pressure on the visiting line, Reece Lyne spotted a gap in the Wolves defence. Sykes’s successful kick hauled Wakefield to within two points of Warrington.
But just when Wakefield looked to be on top, Wolves hit back with three tries in less than ten minutes.
Monaghan and Ratchford grabbed their second tries apiece before Myler played a neat one-two with Hodgson to score and give Warrington another commanding advantage.
Kyle Wood looked to have scored a consolation for the hosts but just two minutes later Sykes eventually collected a Tim Smith kick to touch down and give Wakefield hope of a dramatic victory.
But while Sykes notched up 18 points from the match it was his error in failing to find touch from a Wildcats penalty that alleviated the pressure and allowed Wolves to see out the match. Hodgson ensured the points for the visitors with a drop goal.
Wildcats: L Smith, Fox, Collis, Lyne, Cockayne, Sykes, T Smith, Raleigh, Aiton, Wilkes, Mellars, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs: Lauitiiti, Wood, Amor, Annakin.
Wolves: Hodgson, Riley, Atkins, Grix, J Monaghan, Ratchford, Myler, Cooper, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Currie. Subs: M Monaghan, Harrison, Wood, Carvell.
Referee: Ben Thaler.