Warrington boss Price delighted to defy odds as Wolves land Challenge Cup
Steve Price was delighted to see his Warrington players produce the best performance of his two-year tenure as they ended their final hoodoo under his charge.
Having lost both the Challenge Cup and Super League finals last season, Warrington defied their underdog status to beat overwhelming favourites St Helens and win the former 18-4 at Wembley.
Their win was even more special given the absence of marquee playmaker Blake Austin, who was unable to rid himself of a knee injury in time to play.
Heavily-fancied a year ago, Warrington were stunned by Catalans at Wembley, but on Saturday they turned the tables to be the shock winners themselves, lifting the cup for the ninth time in their history.
“It was very hollow last year,” Price said. “We had to give an eight or nine out of 10 and I am really pleased for the players who have worked their backsides off. I’ve got a great group.
“I knew we could turn it on on the day. One-hundred per cent this is the best performance I have seen since I’ve been here. The blokes were out on their feet. We had a pact (that it had to happen) during the week.”
In Austin’s absence, others stepped up. Daryl Clark, the brilliant hooker who had lost all five of his career finals before Saturday, was named Lance Todd winner as man of the match.
“I’m just happy to get the win,” the former Castleford man said.
“I have been here three times and had to walk past that trophy and it’s heartbreaking. To get my hands on it is special. All the pressure was on St Helens and I am just really proud. It’s a great feeling.”
Clark also reserved praise for Price, who managed to find a way to turn a horror losing run in the league into a Wembley win.
“He’s a good guy, no bulls*** about it. He’s a good coach and you’ve got to enjoy it. It’s going to be a good couple of days,” he said.
While beaten St Helens coach Justin Holbrook did not want to detract from Warrington’s win, he was perplexed by an “unforgivable” decision early in the first half.
The game was in its infancy when referee Robert Hicks opted not to seek video assistance to see if Morgan Knowles had grounded a Theo Fages kick. Had he done so, Saints would have led.
“It’s massive,” Holbrook said. “We’re talking about a Challenge Cup final, a big game, you get your nose in front on a hot day…You’d be filthy if that was a regular round in Super League and they didn’t check. I’m not blaming that, but it (the game) goes differently.
“But that’s not on Warrington, they don’t play a part in those things. I’m going to sound like sour grapes, but I can’t get my head around not checking it. I can’t get my head around it. Awful, unforgivable.”
On the day, Saints simply did not get going. Sixteen points clear at the top of Super League and clear favourites here, little went their way.
Full-back Lachlan Coote exemplified that. A star performer all season, Coote has not played for five weeks and made a number of uncharacteristic errors.
“He tried, but he hadn’t played for five weeks,” Holbrook said. “It was never going to be an easy day out. He’ll be better for it at the back end of the year.”