It’s a funny game, rugby league.
It’s the ultimate team sport; every player needs to contribute to the cause for the team to succeed, yet take just one pivot out of the team and the whole structure can fall apart.
It’s the same the world over, at every club, at every level. There is one player in every side that the team is built around and everything positive goes through them. It could be the hooker, eg James Roby at Saints; the full back, a la Sam Tomkins at Wigan/Jarryd Hayne at Parramatta a few years ago, but in the overwhelming majority of cases it is one of the half backs.
Of course, we know that as much as anyone, having relied on Lee Briers for so long, struggling as we did when he was absent through injury and spending two seasons looking utterly rudderless since his enforced retirement.
Leeds are experiencing a similar thing at the moment, their starting 13 is packed full of internationals and genuinely top class individuals, but without their main pivot, the man who directed the team round the field and created the space for them to do their magic, they find themselves miles behind the pacesetters at the top of the league, just a few months after winning the double.
It’s typical Warrington luck that we sign an absolute magician of a scrum half, who spends the first two months of the season head and shoulders above anyone else in the competition, only for him to be struck down with injury and face a couple of months on the side lines, just as we were gathering momentum and building confidence.
All that came to a grinding halt on Friday in a game about as boring as your Dad’s dining table rants about the EU.
The performance was disappointing in so many ways; there were literally no positives to come out of the game. The fact that we were missing Sandow is no excuse for how tactically shite we were.
Kurt Gidley is a vastly experienced player, having spent 15 seasons playing in the pivots at the Newcastle Knights and representing New South Wales and Australia – he should be vocal enough to step up and fill the void left by the injured Sandow.
Against Wigan a fortnight earlier, both he and Ratchford kicked expertly to pin the crust munchers deep in their own half. The pair of them should have enough nous to know to poke the ball into in-goal area in conditions, but they didn’t – and Danny Brough did. Repeatedly.
And therein lay the difference between the two sides.
Brough used all of his experience and tactical awareness to boss his team around the field and drag them into a winning position.
Other than his kicking game, both teams were pretty even. They were as bad as each other.
Our defence held out well under sustained pressure, but in reality, Huddersfield offered little creative spark in attack.
Odd, really, considering their backline boasted the likes of Brough, Brierley and Cudjoe. Whether it was the rain, a lack of understanding – or a combination of both – for all of Fartown’s domination in possession, they only conjured up a handful of genuine try scoring opportunities; but that was all they needed.
The final pass for their first try looked a bit forward, but the fact is Murphy found himself with acres of space out on his wing.
A penalty goal later on and a drop goal 15 minutes from time – both from Brough, of course – took the game realistically beyond the Wire, before a late Leroy Cudjoe try rubbed salt into the wounds and many of the travelling support that helped to swell the attendance to a whopping 5,000 took that as a sign to head for the exit and try to beat the traffic.
Those that left early probably missed Warrington’s busiest five minutes of the game as, 11 points behind, the team decided to spark into life somewhat, but it was far too little, far too late and Huddersfield just laughed at us as when Ashton Sims attempted a thirty yard spin pass that landed on Rhys Evans’ toes and then had the audacity to wave his arms around and moan at the Welsh winger for not being able to catch his Wally Lewis-esque money ball.
We’ll have to be a lot better against the Smellies on Friday. Those bastards always lift for derby day anyway and they will be especially buoyed by the return of Kevin Brown and the fact that we’re missing our talismanic scrum half.
But there’s enough quality in the side for someone to step up and provide some leadership. Tony Smith didn’t hide his disgust at our performance to the press so hopefully they’ll have the proverbial rocket shoved up their arse ahead of the trip through Penketh.