IF Huddersfield Giants are to make further Super League play-off progress they are going to have to beat one of the knockout kings to do it.
Warrington Wolves may have been beaten 28-12 by bogey side St Helens in last Friday’s Qualifying Play-off at Knowsley Road, but coach Tony Smith’s men do appear to savour sudden-death rugby – as their recent Challenge Cup record shows.
Last season, they beat the Giants in the Wembley final and last month they successfully defended their crown with a highly-impressive 30-6 success over Super League champions Leeds Rhinos.
And that came after they had thrashed Huddersfield 60-4 in the fifth round of the competition in May.
But as well as proving they can be a major Cup force, the Wolves have also shown they have become a more consistent power, having finished third in Super League XV with 20 wins from their 27 fixtures.
And that has included the ‘double’ over the Giants as they followed up an early 14-10 triumph at the Galpharm on February 28 with a 36-20 success at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on May 23.
That underlines what a major threat Warrington will be this weekend, regardless of their knockout calibre.
LEE BRIERS still remains crucial to Warrington’s success.
That was something he showed once again in Wolves’ Challenge Cup final success over Leeds Rhinos last month when he picked up the Lance Todd Trophy as the man-of-the-match.
Briers admitted it was the individual highlight of what has been a glittering career, which began with a successful spell at St Helens.
But it is at Warrington where the stand-off’s career really took off.
In over a decade at the club he has been at the heart of Wolves’ success and continues to pull the side’s main attacking strings.
If he does that again tomorrow, the Giants could be in trouble.
IS Tony Smith about to plot the downfall of his former club once again?
The ex-Huddersfield chief has got the better of the Giants on a number of notable occasions since moving on to Leeds and then Warrington.
In fact, over the last two years Smith has seen his Warrington side secure five victories over coach Nathan Brown’s men, including last season’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley and a 60-4 thrashing in the fifth round of this year’s competition.
The Wolves obviously went on to beat Super League champions Leeds Rhinos in the 2010 final a month ago and Smith’s men are still on course to complete a double after finishing third at the end of the regular season.
Should Warrington go all the way, it would be the third time Smith would have celebrated Super League Grand Final success, having helped Leeds triumph at old Trafford in 2004 and 2007 and underlining the Australian’s status as one of the most successful coaches in modern rugby league.
Giants: B Hodgson, Cudjoe, D Hodgson, Brown, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Mason, Gilmour, Fa’alogo, Wild, Raleigh, Griffin, Kirmond, Lawrence, Faiumu, Grix, Patrick, Brough.
Wolves: L Anderson, V Anderson, Atkins, Bridge, Briers, Carvell, Clarke, Cooper, Harrison, Hicks, Higham, King, Mathers, Monaghan, Morley, Riley, Solomona, Westwood, Wood.
Referee: Phil Bentham