Warrington exorcised last year’s play-off ghosts as they ripped apart Leeds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Tries from Waterhouse, Atkins and two each from Riley and O’Brien were enough to see off the reigning Super League champions, despite a brace from Rob Burrow and a touchdown from skipper Kevin Sinfield.
Inspired by a vintage Lee Briers performance, the Wolves made light of the pouring rain in the North West and played an expansive style of rugby that had victory pretty much sealed by half-time as they raced into a 30-6 lead.
The veteran stand off got his team off to a flyer on the very first set of six of the game, as he showed an outrageous dummy deep in his own half to break through the defensive line. From the resulting play the ball, Warrington shifted the ball left and Chris Riley broke down the wing before his kick back inside was collected by Trent Waterhouse for the big Australian to score.
The elusive winger was over for a try himself shortly afterwards when strong Warrington defence forced an error in the Leeds 20 metre zone before quickly moving the ball to the left wing for Riley to dive over in the corner.
Warrington were over for a third try straight away when a lovely Briers grubber was pounced upon by half back partner Gareth O’Brien. The former Wales captain feigned a high kick to the corner before delicately placing the ball under the sticks for the youngster to score.
Desperate to get back into the game, Leeds managed to temporarily halt the tide and moved the ball downfield. They went close when Kevin Sinfield attempted to dive over from dummy half just short of the try-line, but the captain knocked on, relieving the pressure on the Warrington line.
Despite wearing their special edition charity kit, Tony Smith’s men were not in a charitable mood towards their visitors, as they ruthlessly went 24-0 up after only 20 minutes, another Briers kick for O’Brien. This time, the master put in a lovely reverse chip for the pupil to race on to, with video referee Richard Silverwood judging he got the ball down before his foot hit the dead ball line.
Briers was totally commanding the game for the hosts, taking charge at first receiver and pinning Leeds’ in their own half with his world class kicking game.
Chris Riley made it a 30 point lead when he supported O’Brien after he broke from deep in his own half and drew Zak Hardaker to gift the winger his second of the game.
Captain Kevin Sinfield pulled a try back for the Rhinos just before half-time to take the score to 30-6.
With the score line seemingly past Leeds, Warrington appeared to take their foot off the gas somewhat in the second half, and the Rhinos sought to salvage some pride.
Rob Burrow picked up the ball from the base of the scrum to race through the static Warrington defence in his trademark diminutive style.
Micky Higham had a try chalked off by the video referee when he spilled the ball over the try line after another clever grubber from Briers.
Thing went from bad to worse for Leeds when Ben Westwood clashed heads with Ian Kirke, resulting in the Rhinos second rower being stretchered off with concussion. Westwood himself appeared to feel his jaw afterwards, too.
Mindful of the strike threat the Rhinos possess, Briers casually nudged over a drop goal to extend the Warrington lead.
Burrow was over again to reduce the deficit when he supported Ryan Hall to race in under the sticks.
Any hopes of a Leeds comeback were crushed immediately afterwards when Ratchford’s clever spiralling kick off found touch and earned Warrington possession deep in Rhinos territory.
Inevitably, Warrington punished Leeds when they moved the ball through hands and found centre Ryan Atkins, who celebrated his England call up by showing a dummy to Riley and bursting through the line to crash over. O’Brien’s goal took the score to 37-18 and put the game to bed.
The game ended with a bit of silliness when Darrell Griffin’s shoulder charge on Ben Harrison caught the attention of the touch judge and both sides shared a few choice words.
Warrington: Hodgson, Riley, Atkins, Bridge, Monaghan, Briers, O’Brien, Hill, Higham, Carvell, Westwood, Waterhouse, Harrison
Replacements: Ratchford, Morley, Grix, Cooper.
T: Waterhouse, Riley 2, O’Brien 2, Atkins.
G: Hodgson 5, O’Brien
Leeds: Webb, Jones-Bishop, Ablett, Hardaker, Hall, Sinfield, Burrow, LeuLuai, Lunt, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey
Replacements: Ward, Griffin, Kirke, Clarkson.
T: Sinfield, Burrow 2
Referee: Ben Thaler
Attendance: 10, 835
RLFANS Man of The Match: Lee Briers (Warrington)