Wolves' Ratchford catches eye
Tony Smith paid tribute to the X factor provided by utility back Stefan Ratchford during his Warrington side's 24-12 play-off win over Hull FC.
Saturday's victory took the Wolves to within 80 minutes of a maiden Grand Final.
The hosts were holding onto a tenuous 12-0 lead in their Super League preliminary semi-final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium when Ratchford conjured a try from nothing to put the game safe.
There seemed nothing on when the former Salford player got the ball 20 metres out but he fended off two defenders before kicking ahead and gathering a ricochet off a post to touch down for an opportunist score.
Smith said: "He showed what he can do. He has the ball on a string at times. It's nice to have that bit of X factor in your team.
"Stefan has been doing that type of thing in games all year. He's been a great addition to us."
Veterans Brett Hodgson and Lee Briers once more led the way as the Challenge Cup winners secured only their third victory in 11 play-off ties to keep alive their double dream.
With Wigan almost certain to choose Leeds as their semi-final opponents in Sunday's Clubcall announcement, Warrington will be handed the chance to avenge last week's home defeat by St Helens, although this time they will have to go to Langtree Park.
"We're going to be up against one of two very good opponents," Smith said. "There are four very good teams through to the final stages and whichever one we get put up against we will need to play well."
Second rower Trent Waterhouse and Richie Myler scored first-half tries with help from Briers while Hodgson scored the Wolves' final try and kicked four goals from as many attempts.
"It was nice to see the half-backs combining," Smith added. "They had to devise some ways to break down our opponents.
"I thought our pack was very good defensively and the work that Trent Waterhouse did tonight was unbelievable.
"I thought it was a good, hard, tough game of rugby league, finals footie by both teams.
"Hull defended very well to keep us to 12 at half-time and we did pretty well to defend right throughout the game."
Hull looked a pale shadow of the side that had piled up 152 points in their previous three matches as they rarely threatened the Warrington tryline until the final quarter, when they scored tries through Tom Briscoe and Ben Crooks.
"I was proud of the way we hung in there," said coach Peter Gentle. "We made life difficult for ourselves but defensively we gave ourselves a real chance.
"We came here a with genuine belief that we could cause upset and, if our execution had been better, we could have done that.
"They strangled the life out of us on the ground. It wasn't until midway through the second half that we generated speed around the play-the-ball."
Gentle insists there were positives from his first season in Super League in which Hull finished sixth but admits he would have struggled to field a team had they got through to the semi-finals.
"It's been satisfying year," he said. "We got better through the season and finished strong.
"We had a few youngsters out there, which augurs well for the future. We're pretty busted up at the moment and I don't know whether we would have been able to pick a side next week."