Wakefield Trinity were the designated home side at Emerald Headingley as they took on the Leeds Rhinos in the third game of the opening round of Super League 2021. It was the first game of a double header which would later see the Catalans Dragons face Hull KR.
The Rhinos were favourites to start the season with a win, something that they have done more often than not over the last twenty-five years. Wakefield had a six-point start on the coupon indicating that there was the expectation of a close game after four months for both sides without kicking a competitive ball.
There was no place in the Rhinos seventeen for acquisition Kyle Eastmond, but they did give a debut to new boy Zane Tetevano.
The early pressure was on the Wakefield line and with just four minutes on the clock Luke Briscoe benefitted from a goal-line drop-out was he took a Richie Myler pass and finished on a big overlap down the left. Rhyse Martin pulled his conversion attempt wide of the left upright.
Kruise Leeming kicked a superb 40-20 on seven minutes but the Wakefield defence held strong and prevented the Rhinos from scoring their second and in bringing the ball back from their own line Tom Johnstone scored a sensational ninety metre try as he wove through the Leeds defence to outpace Richie Myler and get over in the corner. Mason Lino was unable to add the conversion, the sides were tied up.
With fifteen minutes on the clock Innes Senior gave Trinity the lead as he got the ball to ground in the right corner after Mikolaj Oledski dropped the ball in the tackle and Wakefield move the ball quickly to the right wing. Lino added the conversion for 10-4.
The Trinity scored a third try on nineteen with Matty Ashurst taking a Jacob Miller pass for a walk in through a broken Leeds defensive line. Lino again added the conversion for a 16-4 lead, Trinity looking totally dominant as the Rhinos made several handling errors.
It was all Trinity until the twenty-fifth minute when the Rhinos managed a couple of clean breaks, the first from Jack Broadbent before the ball made it across to the left wing where Luke Briscoe went close before putting an inside pass to Alex Sutcliffe to drop over the line. Martin added the touchline conversion for 10-16.
The Rhinos were level again on thirty-three, Brad Dwyer scooting from acting half-back for a three metre try, splitting the two Trinity tacklers. Martin’s conversion made it 16-16, we were witnessing quite a game.
The lead was the Rhinos on thirty-seven when Matt Prior won the ball with a strip in the Trinity twenty and after fast hands a Luke Gale pass found Richie Myler to run the angle for the fourth Rhinos try. Martin added the conversion for 22-16.
Leeds turned attack into defence as Dwyer threw a suicide pass on the first tackle on forty-three minutes when a moments composure would have seen the Rhinos extend their lead. Another brain explosion, a lax cross-field attacking kick from Luke Gale, went into the hands of Johnstone who went eighty-five metres to score under the sticks. Lino’s conversion levelled the scores at 22-22, mistakes costing both sides dear.
A Myler intercept saved a certain Wakefield try after Bill Tupou broke down the left wing before passing inside.
Leeds were back in front on fifty-nine after Jacob Miller knocked-on defending his own line. Leeds then moved the ball quickly with Myler finding Jack Broadbent to go through a gap and ground. Martin pulled his conversion attempt wide of the post.
Both teams had chances but poor choices with the ball in hand saw them spurned until the seventy-fifth minute when some clumsy ball handling gifted Leeds a penalty on the Wakefield twenty. Martin slotted over the penalty goal for a six-point lead.
A Broadbent interception on his own ten metres saved the Rhinos blushes of conceding a fifth Trinity try as Leeds ran the clock down to a 28-22 win.
Despite an avalanche of points, this was far from a great game, as two sides blew away the early season cobwebs. There were plenty of handling errors and some very poor choices in promising positions. Neither coach will have learnt much, except that they are going to have to put a lot more work in for their side to be competitive as the season goes on.
Wakefield Trinity: Walker, Senior (T), Lyne, Tupou, Johnstone (2T), Miller, Lino (3G), Fifita, Crowther, Arona, Ashurst (T), Tanginoa, Westerman. Subs: Wood, Batchelor, Green, Tangata.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (T), Briscoe T, Broadbent (T), Sutcliffe A (T), Briscoe L (T), Sutcliffe L, Gale, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin (4G), Tetevano. Subs: Dwyer (T), Thompson, Donaldson, Smith.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.
Score Progression: 0-4, 4-4, 8-4, 10-4, 14-4, 16-4, 16-8, 16-10, 16-14, 16-16, 16-20, 16-22 : HT : 20-22, 22-22, 22-26, 22-28 : FT.