St Helens put a dampener on their derby rivals’ stadium anniversary celebrations with a crushing six-try victory that helped to an impressive start to their First Utility Super League campaign.
Warrington, the pre-season title favourites, began their 10th season at the Halliwell Jones Stadium without former captains Lee Briers and Adrian Morley and, on this showing, the transition might be a painful one.
Saints, on the other hand, look well equipped to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish, with Australian scrum-half Luke Walsh and prop Kyle Amor both making hugely impressive debuts.
Walsh scored a try and kicked seven goals from as many attempts and the watching Sean Long would also have been proud of his tactical kicking, while Amor was a tower of strength in the forward battle and thoroughly deserved his try.
The Wolves were without six forwards from October’s Grand Final, either through injury or departure - and it showed, despite the tremendous efforts of new co-captain Ben Westwood.
The home side gave a debut to former New Zealand international Roy Asotasi and a first senior outing to Welshman Ben Evans, who spent last season on loan to Bradford - but they will be desperate for the quick return of injured trio Simon Grix, Paul Wood and Ben Harrison.
St Helens coach Nathan Brown will have been delighted with his new half-back pairing of Walsh and Gary Wheeler but will also be thankful for some determined and, at times desperate defence, with Sia Soliola and Jon Wilkin guilty of ugly challenges on Michael Monaghan and Chris Riley.
Yet it all began so promisingly for the Wolves, with Michael Monaghan combining with Chris Bridge to get his brother Joel over for the game’s first try in the second minute, thereby punishing an early handling error by Saints loose forward Willie Manu.
St Helens quickly recovered, running in three tries in eight minutes to take a firm hold of the game.
Centre Jordan Turner sparked the purple patch with a superb pass out of a two-man tackle to get his winger Tom Makinson for an equalising score on 12 minutes.
Walsh added the touchline conversion and was also on target when Wheeler came up with a jinking run on the last tackle to get hooker James Roby crashing over for a second try.
Walsh’s 40-20 kick then set up the position for Amor to catch the Saints defence napping for a third try, stretching out of a three-man tackle to plant the ball on the line.
The Australian added the conversion and stretched his side’s lead to 20-4 at the break with a penalty awarded after full-back Stefan Ratchford failed to take his high kick.
Any hope of Warrington getting back into the contest disappeared within two minutes of the restart when Wilkin charged down Michael Monaghan’s attempted clearance kick to set up the position for substitute prop Anthony Laffranchi to take Roby’s short pass and crash over for a fourth try.
Walsh’s fifth goal made it 26-4 and killed the game as a meaningful contest.
Mick Higham created Warrington’s best chance in the second half with a clean break 30 metres out from the line but full-back Jonny Lomax demonstrated Saints’ defensive resolve by getting back to make the tackle.
However, there was nothing Lomax could do to prevent Joel Monaghan scoring his second try on 68 minutes when Warrington substitute stand-off Gareth O’Brien regathered his own kick.
It was nothing more than consolation, though, and Saints fittingly had the final say with two tries in the last eight minutes.
Lomax combined with centre Mark Percival to get winger Adam Swift over at the corner and then Walsh picked off Westwood’s pass to scored their sixth try before adding the goal to take his tally to 18 points.