The Grand Final and That

mike-greg

Fucking hell, where do we start?

Since we last updated this thing, we’ve seen the Wire brush the Chemics aside, be written off as bottlers by pretty much everyone after throwing away a lead against Wigan then travel to Hull and lift the league leaders’ shield against all the odds.

Then, lastly, most significantly, beat Sintellins for only the third time at home in the super league era to make the fucking Grand Final!

We won’t dwell too much on the distant past, but it was pleasing to see Widnes leave their Wembley as losers for the third time this season.

The Leicester City of Super League have been nothing short of embarrassing since Easter and even their most deluded of fans must have turned up in hope rather than expectation of at least one cup final victory this year.

They didn’t even bother to bring that ‘World Champs 89’ banner or the Mersey Paradise flag that, in fairness to them, is pretty mint.

Whoever runs their twitter account, however, couldn’t resist an attempt to claim some form of moral victory, actually sending an actual tweet that actually read “who can sing the loudest? It’s always your year!”

Indeed it may be, but it’s not something that anyone has ever said about Widnes since the Berlin Wall came down.

The victory over the Smellies set us up with the perfect opportunity to secure the league leaders’ shield against Wigan in front of a full HJ a week later.

In the most Warrington thing ever, our beloved boys in Primrose and Blue spunked a 14 point lead against 12 men in the final quarter of the game.

As Wigan ran in for the winning try, the ‘Wire Walk’ was in full flow and pretty much everyone in Warrington – and rugby league – had their say on how we were a team of bottlers, how the game had passed Tony Smith by, how we were on course to win absolutely fuck all, etc etc.

Nobody within the squad that travelled to Hull seemed to agree, though, and Chris Hill lifted the league leaders’ shield after a close to perfect 80 minutes of rugby league.

Dec Patton led the team around the field expertly, belying his age and level of first team experience and even popped over a drop goal just to confirm the victory late on.

Every Warrington half back for the next decade or so will be compared to Lee Briers, however fairly or unfairly, but Patton has grown up watching the maestro and was coached by the man himself at the under 19s and it is easy to see the influence he has had on the youngsters game. His kicking game, his control of certain situations, how willing he is to take the line, how much he seems to bark at his forwards: despite his tender years, the academy product is really holding his own in the cauldron of the Super League.

Pretty much the same young squad that went to the KCom stadium played against Saints, amid another week of being written off in the build-up.

We’re not sure if you were aware, but prior to Thursday’s game, Warrington had only beaten St Helens twice (TWICE) at home in twenty years of super league competition.

Saints’ fans travelled from Sankey in confident mood having seen their team at their hometown stadium 18 times in 19 visits, but the self-proclaimed wittiest, sharpest, loudest, bestest set of supporters in the game were reduced to booing and accusing the RFL as being as bent as a bottle of crisps as the Wire ran out winners and, for the second time in seven days, actually saw out a tight victory in the closing stages.

There was an absolute twitter meltdown about a couple of try decisions that should or shouldn’t have been given, or handed up to the video referee, or sent to an independent inquiry, whatever. There didn’t seem to be much sympathy for us last week after that Lewis Tierney ‘try’, so fuck ‘em basically.

In fact, you can’t help but hope that we win the grand final by a disputed try – maybe Stefan Ratchford finding Matty Russell with a pass that’s three feet forward or Rhys Evans getting his fingertips nowhere near the ball but the video referee not having sufficient evident to overturn the ref’s on-field decision – just to see big Jimmy from Halifax spend his Saturday night tweeting how the game has gone to shite and Nigel Wood is worse than Jimmy Savile while we’re all chewing our own faces off in Showbar.

Then on Friday, we found out our Old Trafford opponents when Wigan held off a Hull comeback and set up a repeat of the 2013 Grand Final.

For those of us brought up on images of Mike Gregory scoring under the sticks and Dessie Drummond knocking fuck out of Kevin Iro in the corner, a Wire-Wigan final in any competition is the stuff dreams are made of.

We aren’t short of local rivals – we’ve beaten two of the biggest in the past month and took a lot of joy in doing it as well – but there has always been something a bit different about the rivalry with Wigan.

Widnes games are vicious, poisonous affairs, but beating them is a bit like punching down in the world.

Whether it’s the amount of ex-Wigan players we have always seemed to have our squads through the years, the fact that they were always winning everything in the 80s and 90s – or maybe how smug the fuckers were about it – or even a combination of all three, whenever that lot are in town, there’s a different buzz about the place.

The fact that we are meeting them again on the biggest stage just amplifies that. It’s Wigan Week on steroids.

The media hype around the game is intense and the 75,000 punters inside Old Trafford this weekend will be expecting a classic final, even if both sides will be missing some of their best players.

It is a shame for the game itself that the likes of Tomkins, O’Loughlin, Westwood and Currie will be absent, but both sides will have plenty of talented players on the pitch.

Elsewhere in the world of rugby league, Cronulla Sharks won the NRL Grand Final, setting themselves a date with the winner of Saturday’s battle.

There had been whispers down under recently that the NRL top brass were looking at relocating the Sharkies into the city of Sydney, but that will probably be on the back burner now.

At the other end of the spectrum, another Lee Briers’ protégé, Gaz O’Brien, nudged over a drop goal from 45 metres to keep the Salford City Reds in the top flight for at least another season.

Much has been said about the rights and wrongs of the Million Pound Game, but you can’t deny that the concept has sparked an interest and an intensity into the final rounds of the season that would have otherwise been absent.

The bottom line is that Rovers weren’t relegated because of a coin toss or because of a spectacular drop goal: They were relegated because over 28 rounds of competition, they were absolutely garbage.

They essentially finished 13th in a 12 team competition and have nobody to blame but themselves.

All this tripe from Ben Cockayne about players’ jobs and mortgages being in jeopardy, well, tough shit. Every players’ job is in jeopardy every time they step onto the field. They are a bad tackle, a bad injury, or a bad season away from never playing professional sport again. That’s the nature of competitive sport. What’s to say that had Hull KR stayed up, all those players would have been offered a new contract anyway? No doubt some of them would have moved on, either to retirement or to a Championship club. Would there have been as much hand-wringing and twitter meltdowns about their careers then?!

Would Neil Hudgell have been as critical of the concept had Widnes or Wakefield been in their situation? We doubt it.

Anyway, congratulations to Salford – and from a purely selfish point of view, we can’t grumble that we have keep a nice local away game next season at the expense of the most sparsely attended one.

Hopefully the next time we fill that little shed of an away end at Salford, we will be doing so as the reigning champions.

Christ, we’re excited for Saturday.

Now the fucking Wire.

 

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