Wolves defeated as Rhinos rule the roost at Headingley
Leeds Rhinos 28 Warrington Wolves 22
By Rachel Arnett
Sunday 7 April saw last year's Grand Finalists go head to head for the first time since that night in October at Old Trafford.
Leeds Rhinos may have got the better of the Wolves on that occasion but now a third of the way through a new season there was everything to play for as Warrington travelled to Headingley for Round 11.
Encounters between the two sides have become renowned for being hard fought contests and the stage was set for another classic battle. Both teams went into the match on the back of a tough Easter period hoping to kick on from their Easter Monday victories.
The Wolves side saw some changes from the team that faced the Broncos last week; Bridge and Williams out with Riley and Higham returning to the 17 and Grix moving into position at centre. Contrastingly there were numerous changes for the Rhinos side with Vickery, Bailey, Delaney and Kirke out; and Hardaker, Leuluai, Clarkson and Singleton all making the line-up.
Leeds took a foothold on the game from the kick-off restricting the opportunities for the Wolves. But the visitors were able to keep themselves in the game breaking the defensive line on two occasions. The second half saw the Wolves spark into life showing some desire to fight their way back into the game from only eight points behind. The visitors tested the Rhinos until the end but had left themselves too much to do and the home side secured the victory.
Leeds got the game underway with Wolves first in attack. An impressive first set took them well over half way with the defence then responding well to keep the Rhinos back.
Grix looked set to break away for a try just a few minutes in but was pulled back for obstruction involving Westwood in back-play and possession was handed over to Leeds. This set up the first try for the home side; on three minutes McGuire reached over the defence to touch down. Sinfield converted to make it 6-0.
Momentum was with Leeds and Warrington needed to hold up their defensive line. In the eighth minute Harrison was called up for a high shot on Burrow and a penalty was awarded. Sinfield opted to go for goal setting up just to the left of sticks 15 metres out. The extras were added 8-0.
McGuire looked to have set up a second try with a long loping pass out to Hall on the wing but Joel Monaghan went for the intercept knocking the ball out of play, opening up a repeat set for the Rhinos. But he didn't make the same mistake a few moments later when a similar Leeds pass went to ground; Joel was on hand to scoop up the ball and run over 60 metres, skipping away from the defence on 13 minutes to cross under the posts. Hodgson added the extras. 8-6.
A forward pass by Michael Monaghan from the offload gave a scrum to Leeds from 30 metres out. This was followed by a ball steal in the tackle and a knock-on from a grubber kick edging the Rhinos that little bit closer. These repeat sets finally resulted in another home try with Hall crossing in the corner. He touched down from mid-air keeping his foot in play. Sinfield missed the kick. 12-6 on 19 minutes after a video referee decision.
The first 20 minutes saw Leeds create numerous opportunities and on 23 minutes Hodgson knocked a McGuire kick out of play resulting in a drop out. From the following set Watkins crossed in the corner as the home side kept the ball alive. Another missed conversion edged the score to 16-6
The Wolves had their moment on the half hour. Back-to-back penalties took the visitors close and a Myler kick on the last was carried out of play by Leeds forcing a drop out as Wolves gained some field possession.
Currie patted the ball back 10 metres out to keep play alive. And after having gone through numerous pairs of hands a pass from Higham put Myler over on 34 minutes. Hodgson converted taking the score to 16-12.
The Rhinos had the final say of the half. A powerful break by Hardaker took the Rhinos to within 20 metres. The defence did well to catch him and halt the attack. But quick hands continued and put McShane over in the right hand corner with just two minutes of the half remaining. Sinfield's kick drifted wide. Half Time: Leeds 20 Warrington 12
Wolves opened their second half with a strong set building some pressure early on with Ratchford's kick just skipping out of play on the last.
But it wasn't long before the home side were piling on the pressure themselves and the Wolves stepped up to the mark to keep them out.
On 50 minutes it was the home side that opened the second half scoring with Hall crossing in the corner taking a well-timed pass from Moon on his inside. Sinfield added the touchline conversion 26-12.
Wolves come close five minutes later after a Rhinos error with Ratchford and Higham held up over the line but the scrambling Leeds' defence kept the visitors out and wrapped them up on the last.
Field position was more evenly matched in the second half with the third quarter seeing more opportunities open up for the Wolves. On 61 minutes the visitors converted opportunities into points when Joel Monaghan went over for his second. A kick by Ratchford ricocheted back into his hands allowing him to break away and put in another high kick for Joel to collect and touch down. The try was awarded by the video referee. Hodgson converted. 26-18
This try certainly lifted the Wolves as they continued to pepper the line looking for gaps in the Leeds' defence. But this held strong well into the final quarter.
A high shot by Higham then gave the Rhinos the shot at penalty goal they needed to nudge further ahead on 74 minutes. 28-18
The Wolves were rewarded for trying right until the end with a consolation try on the hooter. An offload from Westwood in the tackle was collected by Grix and quick hands over to the left opened up space for Atkins to cross in the corner. Hodgson's conversion attempt was missed. Final score: Leeds 28 Warrington 22
Wolves head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith said: "I didn't think they (Leeds) were outstanding but I thought they were business-like and they did what they needed to do particularly in that first half. I thought our first half was dreadful, as bad as we've produced for a little while; we were just flat in terms of energy and we only got down there and inside their 20-metre line twice, for two sets, in the first half. We just didn't test them or put enough on them to trouble them.
"I thought we picked up a bit in the second half and found some energy and lifted a little bit but I thought the kicking games were chalk and cheese - it just shows you how important that is - Kevin's kicks were in control of the kicking game and we didn't have any of that particularly in the first half. I was disappointed with the manner in which we conceded some of the tries as well; a couple of dummy half barge-overs just not up to our standard but we've had a good talk about it.
"Score line wise it (winning) wasn't out of the question. Kevin missed a few goals which was highly unusual for him so from the score line we weren't out of it.
"They weren't terrific either. If they'd really been on their game they would have smacked us, the way we were, particularly in the first half."
And with an update on the injury situation; Bridge is likely to be out for a week or two with hamstring trouble, plus: "Some very good news Lee Briers has been given the green light to resume playing so he'll be back in action in the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to that; when I'm talking about kicking games he's one guy who's got one and we needed something like that tonight, a few of those kicks certainly would have helped and maybe that would have got us back in the game."
Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins, Carl Ablett, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Kylie Leuluai, Rob Burrow, Jamie Peacock, Stevie Ward, Mitch Achurch, Jamie Jones-Buchanan
Subs: Chris Clarkson, Brad Singleton, Paul McShane, Richard Moore
Tries: McGuire, Hall (2), Watkins, McShane
Goals: Sinfield (4)
Brett Hodgson, Chris Riley, Ryan Atkins, Simon Grix, Joel Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler, Chris Hill, Michael Monaghan, Mike Cooper, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Ben Harrison
Subs: Garreth Carvell, Micky Higham, Paul Wood, Ben Currie
Tries: J Monaghan (2), Myler, Atkins
Goals: Hodgson (3)
Game pictures below courtesy of Bob Brough
07, Apr, 2013