The Leeds Rhinos sent out a youthful team ahead of their Challenge Cup Final appointment on Saturday as they took on a Warrington Wolves side who took the opportunity to rest a few players, most notably their marquee player Blake Austin.
Leeds coach Richard Agar suggested that there were still Challenge Cup final places up for grabs and there were seventeen players named who would give everything to try and secure a spot, but in all likelihood the seventeen for the game against the Red Devils on Saturday would include very few players from tonight.
A win for Warrington, the firm favourites with the bookies, would see the two sides change league places in the top four, the Wolves moving into the all-important play-off places.
It was easy enough for Warrington to open the scoring after just four minutes as Toby King jumped, unopposed, to collect a cross-field kick and walk over the Leeds line to score by the uprights. Stefan Ratchford slotted the conversion between the uprights for a 6-0 lead, early on it looked like it might be a long night for the Rhinos youngsters.
Great Rhinos pressure resulted in their opening try with Sam Walters crashing the Wolves line for a four pointer, under the sticks giving Jarrod O’Connor a simple conversion to level the scores, the Leeds lads not willing to take the defeat lying down.
With twenty minutes on the clock the makeshift Rhinos side were giving it a good go and frustrating the Warrington super stars.
A clumsy tackle from Sitaleki Akauola, lifting the legs, saw the Wolves substitute sin-binned for ten minutes on the half hour but the Rhinos declined the two points and lost the ball on the second play.
A high tackle from Leeds on their own line gifted the Wolves a penalty and Stefan Ratchford kicked the goal on thirty-seven to give his side a two-point lead going into the interval.
Jack Walker over-ran the ball on forty-seven and lost the ball when a pass from Bodene Thompson looked as though it had put him over.
On fifty it was the Wolves who extended their lead with fast hands finding Matty Ashton to go down the wing and dive over in the corner. Ratchford pushed his kick wide of the far upright. There was just one converted try between the sides, but Warrington had the momentum.
Just after the hour mark Ben Currie found some space after Toby King took a high kick and passed out to the second rower to walk in. Ratchford added the conversion for an 18-6 lead, experience finally telling and settling the home side’s nerves.
Within seconds Currie made a break and should have closed out the win but a poor pass saw the ball spilled and the Rhinos regained possession.
A Ratchford penalty extinguished any hope of a Rhinos fightback as he took Warrington out to a 20-6 lead. Five minutes from time Daryl Clark went through a crowd of Leeds players to score under the sticks, the Rhinos youngsters finally running out of steam. Ratchford’s goal made it 26-6.
Ashton added his second with two minutes left on the clock as he took a King knock back from a high kick to walk in. Ratchford added the goal for a 32-6 for what was, in the end, a comprehensive win.
Warrington will be pleased with the win and the to points but coach Steve Price will not be delighted at the nature of it. The Leeds young players once again did themselves proud and most Leeds fans will forgive them the loss, so long as they bring the Challenge Cup home at the weekend. Warrington are up to third, on points difference, and will hope that they can stay there until the end of the season.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford (6G), Charnley, Gelling, King (T), Ashton (2T), Patton, Widdop, Hill, Walker, Robson, Currie(T), Hughes, Clark J. Subs: Clark D (T), Akauola (SB on 30), Davis, Johnson.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Tindall, Evans, Thompson, Briscoe L, McLelland, Broadbent, Holroyd, O’Connor (G), Cuthbertson, Walters (T), Ferres, Smith. Subs: Whitley, Mustapha, Harrison, McConnell.
Referee: Chris Kendall.
Half Time: 8-6.
Full Time: 32-6.
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington.