LEEDS RHINOS produced an outstanding all-round display to thrash form side Warrington Wolves 40-0 at Headingley.
Rhinos have bounced back well from defeats this season and last night’s seven-try romp was a terrific response to the loss against Castleford Tigers six days earlier.
There had been positive signs at the Magic Weekend and Rhinos built on those while improving massively in key areas.
The first half was quite even in terms of chances and territory, but Leeds were stronger defensively, clinical when they got close to Warrington’s line and went in at the break 12-0 ahead.
Two tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half extended the lead and Leeds were never in any danger of letting the game slip.
Leeds were very impressive on attack, but even better defensively – though error-ridden and Warrington were poor
Leeds looked determined to keep a clean sheet and deservedly did so. Their spirit was highlighted by Kallum Watkins’ tackle to jar the ball loose from George King late on.
Hooker Matt Parcell has been one of the best signings of the season and he capped a terrific display with a hat-trick, though it was a team effort.
There was only one change to Rhinos’ 17, Jordan Baldwinson coming in to beef-up the bench in place of Ash Handley.
Mitch Garbutt was sidelined for a third successive game, but is expected to return in Monday’s game at Widnes Vikings.
Carl Ablett and Keith Galloway are set to feature at home to Leigh Centurions in six days’ time, but Jimmy Keinhorst remains on the long-term casualty list.
There was an injury concern for Rhinos in the first half when Ashton Golding returned a kick from his own line and was hurt in Ashton Sims’ tackle.
He went off moments later and was replaced by Rob Burrow, who joined the action at half-back. Liam Sutcliffe shifted to full-back and Joel Moon went into the centres.
Rhinos handled the reshuffle very well. Burrow had a fine game – capped by a brilliant solo try – and Sutcliffe was – again – outstanding, scoring a try soon after the switch and causing Warrington problems with some surging runs. He also kicked six goals from nine attempts.
Leeds also lost Brett Delaney late on, which was a blow as he had been very impressive and is in good form.
The early signs weren’t positive. It was four minutes before Rhinos got possession, Golding spilling Kurt Gidley’s kick in the first set and then being trapped in goal at the end of the second.
It seemed Warrington’s kicking game might give Leeds a torrid night, but it was poor for the rest of the match and Gidley was pulled off in the third quarter.
A knock-on by Tom Lineham relieved the early pressure and then Tom Briscoe’s kick was dropped by Warrington full-back Stefan Ratchford, but Brett Ferres was offside.
From the penalty, Gidley kicked to the corner, the ball was knocked back by Sutcliffe and Matty Russell dived on to the ball.
Referee James Child – in charge for the sixth time in eight meetings between these sides – indicated no try and, after a long examination, video assistant Phil Bentham agreed.
Warrington wasted an opportunity, from a Kallum Watkins knock-on, when prop Chris Hill hammered a kick dead.
That was a theme for Warrington, who also spilled the ball several times when they had Leeds under pressure near the hosts’ line.
In the resulting set – after 13 minutes – Parcell’s pass sent Briscoe into space and he committed the full-back, Ratchford before returning the ball to send Leeds’ No 9 over.
Coach Brian McDermott kept faith with Briscoe, who had been hooked off against Cas after a series of mistakes and the winger repaid that with a strong display which will have been a valuable boost to his confidence. Sutcliffe added the extras and Ryan Hall prevented Russell going over at the corner moments later when he knocked Kevin Brown’s kick into touch.
Leeds almost grabbed a second try 13 minutes before the break, but Ferres was pulled down just short by Ryan Atkins on the last. Soon after Leeds tapped back-to-back penalties in front of the posts and came away with four points, rather than two, when Sutcliffe ran a nice line on to McGuire’s pass, though he could not add the extras.
Those penalties were Leeds’ first of the game. Warrington were placed on a team warning when they were penalised again soon afterwards – which made the count only 3-1 after 34 minutes.
The team warning was undeserved. Three minutes later Ratchford was penalised for moving off the mark, but Child kept his yellow card in his pocket – possibly because the penalty wasn’t conceded in defence. Sutcliffe, however, booted the goal to make it 12-0 at the interval.
Leeds went three scores ahead at the start of the second half, after a pass by Brown to Joe Westerman was ruled forward.
Delaney’s forceful run put Warrington on the back foot, McGuire went close and then Parcell nipped over from acting-half for his 12th try of the season in all competitions.
That was on 43 minutes and six later Jamie Jones-Buchanan was put into a gap by Burrow and held off Ratchford on a storming charge to the line. It was a well deserved try in a top-class performance by the veteran back-rower.
Sutcliffe converted the first and Rhinos were 22-0 up. Just before the hour Westerman made an astonishing tackle to force Hall into touch when he looked a certain scorer.
But that was over-shadowed by a punch-up in back play between Stevie Ward and Daryl Clark. Both players were sin-binned, the penalty went from Leeds and Moon stepped over from close range in the resulting set, Sutcliffe’s conversion making it 28-0.
Joe Philbin was held up over Leeds’ line – Bentham backing up Child’s original decision – but Sutcliffe booted a penalty with 12 minutes left and added the extras when Parcell completed his hat-trick, from Burrow’s pass, three minutes later.
Warrington forced some late pressure, but Watkins kept King out and in the next set Burrow rolled back the years with a try from inside his own half to complete the scoring on a memorable night.
The penalty count was 4-1 to Leeds at half-time and finished 7-6 to the hosts.
Rhinos under-19s were beaten 52-10 by Warrington in yesterday’s curtain-raiser.
James Barraclough and Reece Chapman-Smith – who later went off with a leg injury – scored Leeds’ tries.
Tom Schofield added a conversion for the hosts, who had Muizz Mustapha sin-binned for retaliation.