Leeds’ life as treble champions got off to a losing start as they fell 10-12 to Warrington at Headingley.
Many questioned how Leeds would cope without Kevin Sinfield and had they had him on the field they may well have come away with at least a point as Zak Hardaker pulled a late penalty wide of the posts to make it 12-12.
Chris Sandow was impressive for Warrington scoring the first try of the game as well as playing a crucial role in the second with an extremely accurate cross field kick. Ben Currie caught the ball and set up Kevin Penny in the corner.
Brad Singleton and Ryan Hall were on the scoresheet for Leeds. Hall finished off some fantastic off-the-cuff play after Joel Moon broke the Warrington tackle and stepped through the line. However Rob Burrow could have won the game for Leeds with eight minutes remaining but couldn’t get over the line, this before Hardaker’s missed penalty.
Kurt Gidley, Jack Hughes and Joe Westerman all debuted for Warrington with Gidley earning himself the man of the match and kicking two goals. Brett Ferres and Keith Galloway made their first competitive appearances for the home side.
New Warrington signing Gidley said: “This was probably one of the most resilient team performances I’ve ever been involved in.”
He added: “It’s a great one to kick off the season with away to Leeds last season’s treble winners.”
We were instantly reminded of the hard-hitting nature of the Super League from Tony Smith’s side. First Ashton Sims flew in with a big shot on Leeds full-back Hardaker as he returned the ball from a Sandow kick. This was followed Ben Westwood catching Hardaker with a possibly shoulder charge which went unnoticed by referee James Child.
The home side had the better of the early stages earning three back-to-back sets on Warrington’s line as Rhys Evans twice knocked on from interception attempts. However his efforts did prevent two certain Leeds tries. McGuire would force a goal line drop-out not long after with a clever kick which Matty Russell needed to palm out of play.
However McGuire’s evening was soon cut short as he left the field after just thirty minutes and wouldn’t return due to injury. This seemed to have an immediate affect and Warrington went on the ascendancy.
Brad Singleton would commit a high tackle on Sandow as he sprinted for the line which gifted Warrington a repeat set and the Wolves made the most of it. Sandow received the ball before throwing a dummy and using his pace to get through the gap in the Leeds defence and to the line.
Hardaker kicked the ball out on the full from the resulting kick-off and Warrington went into the break in the lead.
Leeds came out and managed to pull themselves level after just six minutes of the second half. Singleton powered his way over from ten yards out. Ten minutes later the Rhinos managed to put themselves ahead for through winger Hall. Joel Moon broke before finding Jordan Lilley with a brilliant pass he then found Hall who bundled his way over in the corner.
However Warrington soon replied themselves. Sandow let go an inch perfect kick across field which Ben Currie collected before throwing the ball wide the Penny who finished the try with ease. Gidley’s conversion put the Wolves two points ahead.
The Rhino’s had chances to earn something from the game in the dying minutes. Rob Burrow broke but failed to finish with Currie managing to bring the hooker down a few yards from the try-line.
Currie would then give a penalty away with four minutes remaining and Leeds chose to kick for goal. However Hardaker skewed his effort wide and failed to earn the home side a point in the opening game of the season.
Leeds: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sutcliffe, McGuire; Galloway, Burrow, Cuthbertson, Ferres, Ablett, Delaney.
Subs: Singleton, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Lilley.
Warrington: Russell, Lineham, Evans, Currie, Penny; Gidley, Sandow; Hill, Clark, Sims, Hughes, Westwood, Westerman.
Subs: Dwyer, King, Jullien, Cox.