Warrington coach Tony Smith has paid tribute to former Hull winger Tom Lineham after his try double helped destroy his old club and earn a Super League semi-final home tie.
Lineham scored first and last in the Wolves’ 23-6 win that clinched the League Leaders’ Shield and set up a derby clash with St Helens in the first semi-final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Thursday.
Saints sent Wakefield plunging to their ninth successive defeat on Friday as they warmed up for the final four, a second-half hat-trick from Shannon McDonnell sealing the 32-12 win for a fourth place finish.
Meanwhile, Wigan coach Shaun Wane hailed a “satisfying” 48-24 win over Catalans Dragons to secure their semi against Hull but they could have some injury concerns.
Lineham, a big-money buy from Hull at the end of last season, was dropped to reserves mid-season after losing form but justified his recall with a superb all-round display as Warrington avenged their Challenge Cup defeat.
“It was a great response from Tommy Lineham,” Smith said.
“When he wasn’t getting picked, instead of sulking, he did something about it.
“He worked harder each and every week, coming in early and doing all the right things.
“He came up with some enormous plays, including a couple of trysaving tackles, I thought he was terrific.”
Warrington fluffed a chance to wrap up the League Leaders’ Shield a week ago, when they let slip a 28-14 lead against 12-man Wigan, and were dealt another blow with the loss through injury of influential playmaker Kurt Gidley and in-form second rower Ben Currie.
But they never looked back after scoring tries through Lineham and another recalled winger, Kevin Penny, inside 13 minutes.
McDonnell’s hat-trick dashed the Wildcats’ hopes of ending their season with a shock win before Theo Fages added a late St Helens try.
Luke Walsh booted four goals but Saints will need an improved show to reach Old Trafford in a fortnight.
Elsewhere, Wigan skipper Sean O’Loughlin had been due to return to action following five weeks out with a hamstring problem but he pulled up in the warm-up for the Catalans game complaining of a tight calf and may now miss the semi-finals.
Sam Tomkins also needs a scan on a leg injury he picked up against Warrington that also saw him miss the game.