LEEDS RHINOS got what they deserved from last night’s tussle with Warrington Wolves, going down to a 33-22 defeat which could be costly to their fading top-four hopes.
Rhinos were poor for all but a 15-minute spell after half-time when they went from 11-4 behind to 22-11 ahead.
That lead should have been enough, but Leeds went to pieces in the final quarter and anything other than a Wolves win would have been an injustice.
Rhinos were a shambles for the most of the first half and the last 20. They were lucky to be only seven points adrift at the break.
Warrington were better-organised, faster and more enthusiastic, dominated for 35 minutes and could have had at least a couple more touchdowns.
Rhinos began running with some venom after the interval, Richie Myler got into the game, linking with Matt Parcell and Leeds looked a different team.
They were in front within 15 minutes of the resumption and 11 ahead on the hour, but then it all went wrong again as Warrington - inspired by Stefan Ratchford and Harvey Livett - hit back to lead 27-22 inside the last seven and they sealed it with their fifth try on the final play.
Leeds’ performances have dipped as their side has got stronger. Only three of last night’s side aren’t in the top-20 squad, so there were no excuses.
There was a surprising selection in the only change to the team which started the win at Hull KR five days earlier.
Parcell, who had been clearly upset when he was substituted at KCOM Craven Park, dropped to the bench and back-rower Brett Ferres came in at hooker.
Leeds went to pieces in the final quarter and anything other than a Wolves win would have been an injustice.Peter Smith
Leeds mixed things up at dummy-half with full-back Ashton Golding slotting in there for the most part, but various others had a go, four of them in the same set at one stage. Whatever the reason for Parcell being benched, he was brought on after only 12 minutes.
Nathaniel Peteru was among the substitutes for his second Rhinos appearance and first since suffering a torn biceps in the round one win at Warrington.
Josh Walters also returned on the bench, in place of Brett Delaney, whose shoulder injury is not as serious as initially feared and could be in contention for next Friday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie at Widnes Vikings.
Mikolaj Oledzki dropped out and was due to play for Featherstone Rovers at Toulouse Olympique today, along with clubmates Jordan Lilley and Harry Newman.
Jack Walker, who has not played in the first team since suffering an ankle injury on Good Friday, made his comeback for the under-19s in Thursday’s win over Warrington.
Brad Dwyer, who suffered a fractured elbow during the Easter period, was named in the initial 19, but did not make the side. Liam Sutcliffe and Mitch Garbutt remain on the casualty list.
Warrington led after eight minutes. Livett collected Myler’s kick behind his own line and managed to get back into play.
At the end of the set he kicked ahead, the ball took a rebound, was hacked on again by Livett and then Kevin Brown, who ran through to touch down.
Video referee Phil Bentham confirmed the try and Bryson Goodwin added the extras.
Tackles by Kallum Watkins on Goodwin and Ash Handley, who forced Ryan Atkins to lose possession, denied Wolves a second try and then Atkins touched down, but that was ruled out by Bentham, agreeing with referee Ben Thaler’s initial assessment.
Bentham, however, awarded Warrington a penalty for Josh Charnley being tackled in the air by Ryan Hall, only for Goodwin’s kick to strike a post.
Soon afterwards, though, Leeds’ defence was caught out by Livett and he sneaked over from acting-half on the last. Goodwin could not convert, but at 10-0 Warrington were in total control.
Rhinos got their first penalty in the 23rd minute, Myler took it quickly, but his long kick was kept in play by Tom Lineham
Golding dropped a couple of bread and butter kicks and his second error almost proved costly as Tyrone Roberts’ kick was brilliantly taken by Livett and he offloaded to Ben Murdoch-Masila, who seemed to have scored until Thaler thought otherwise.
Bentham agreed the substitute forward had been grounded just short, by Myler and Watkins.
Fans in the partially-occupied South Stand reacted to Golding’s second error by chanting his name. That was a nice touch and he got Leeds back in the game after 32 minutes.
They hadn’t applied any sustained pressure before then, but Myler was taken out in the air by Murdoch-Masila after a kick to give the hosts an opportunity.
Leeds tapped the penalty and Golding stormed over, through Livett’s attempted tackle, off Myler’s pass.
Bentham was asked to have a look, yet again and he gave the green light, but Watkins could not add the extras.
Warrington went two scores clear on the final play of the half when Roberts, under no pressure, booted a one-pointer, the sixth drop goal conceded by Leeds this season. Aided by a couple of penalties against Warrington in possession, Leeds made a much better start to the second half and they hey staged what looked like being a winning fightback.
Sitaleki Akauola was penalised for interference as he played the ball and in the resulting set Moon got past Atkins from Myler’s pass.
Bentham confirmed the original decision and Watkins’ conversion made it a one-point ball game.
Leeds went ahead with 25 minutes to go with a quality try. Parcell did well from dummy-half, Myler was involved twice and Ablett provided the final pass which Hall finished.
Watkins landed a tremendous touchline goal and, almost immediately, Ablett ran a fine line on to Myler’s pass, after Jamie Jones-Buchanan had handled and the captain converted from the same spot, via a post.
Suddenly Rhinos had the game in their pocket, but Jones-Buchanan knocked-on from the restart and Warrington scored in the next set, Atkins touching down from Brown’s kick.
Ratchford added the extras to leave the visitors just five adrift with 17 minutes left and they were back in front seven later when Rivett romped over from a pass by Ratchford, who added the extras.
In the set from the restart Livett completed his hat-trick with a try created by Daryl Clark, Ratchford and Roberts, though there was no goal.
Ryan Atkins had a touchdown ruled out by the video referee two minutes from time - when he was held up - but Murdoch-Masila crashed over later in the set.
It was Leeds’ fifth defeat of the season and their second in as many home games and at the moment they look like an ordinary mid-table side.
The penalty count finished seven-four in Leeds’ favour. It was three-three in the first half.