Faltering Wolves could see woes continue.
It’s hard to believe now but, only a few short months ago, Warrington Wolves were kicking off the new Super League season as favourites in most bookmakers’
lists to win the Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Fast forward to the present and the stuttering Wolves – now freely quoted at double-digit odds -meet the Catalan Dragons in Friday night’s televised Super League fixture in desperate need of a win just to keep pace in the battle for a top-eight place.
So what has gone wrong for last season’s beaten Grand Finalists under the unflappable Tony Smith – a coach who can juggle egos, manage pressure and inspire consistency of performance?
The most obvious answer from a distance is that the Wolves are suffering a major hangover from losing a huge chunk of its leadership group in the off-season. The likes of Lee Briers, Brett Hodgson Adrian Morley and Gareth Carvell weren’t just big personalities on and off the field for the Wolves – they were absolutely integral to their style of play and, without them, Warrington have looked largely rudderless and bereft of inspiration.
That leadership void has been exacerbated by an injury to Ben Westwood recently and it’s no coincidence that, without the fearless England back-rower, Warrington were wretched even by their own faltering standards in successive away defeats to Castleford and Bradford in their last two games.
Westwood will again sit this one out along with Simon Grix, Richie Myler and Paul Wood but influential playmaker Stefan Ratchford comes back into contention after a calf strain and a lot would appear to rest in his shoulders, and that of the Wolves other two outstanding performers this year, Chris Hill and Micky Higham.
In contrast to their opponents, the Catalan Dragons arrive at the Halliwell Jones Stadium full of confidence.
Heavy French involvement in the World Cup played havoc with the Catalans’ pre-season preparations and at least partly explained their woeful start to the season which incensed club owner Bernard Gausch.
But, ever since a disastrous 56-4 defeat at Wakefield precipitated crisis talks, the Dragons have turned their season around and are now ticking along nicely. Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous has injury concerns of his own with outstanding English-born back-rower Elliot Whitehead recently joining experienced campaigners Scott Dureau, Brent Webb, Ian Henderson, Thomas Bosc, Greg Mounis on the treatment table but rugged prop Jeff Lima is a welcome returnee.
Former England man Leon Pryce has been pivotal in recent weeks in guiding the Dragons to four successive wins with exciting full-back Morgan Escare running in the tries and, if the big Catalan pack can muscle-up early, the Catalans will fancy their chances of an upset against a Wolves side who must endure a short Sunday-Friday turnaround.
All that said, the Catalan side still aren’t convincing travellers and there is a lingering suspicion that they aren’t as well placed as some other sides to take advantage of the Wolves’ current confidence issues.
So, while this probably isn’t a game to get over-involved with from a financial perspective, we at BetBright are loath to recommend taking short odd on the Wolves right now and would prefer to side with the Catalans at 11/10 receiving +6.5 on the handicap.
The match kicks off at at 8pm tomorrow night.
Place a bet on Wolves V Dragons – Be sure to get on our special offer whereby if your team is winning at half-time and fails to win the game!