In a thrilling and closely contested Academy clash at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Leeds Rhinos Under-18s were narrowly defeated 30-28 by Warrington Wolves Under-18s, despite a last-minute try from Riley Lumb.
This match marked the first encounter between the two teams since Leeds emerged victorious over the Wolves in last year’s Academy semi-finals. The Leeds squad featured nine players who had played a crucial role in their triumph, while several young talents such as Kai Taylor-Smith, Declan Ementon, and Jack Purtill were called back to bolster the lineup.
Right from the start, the Rhinos displayed their dominance and energy, creating scoring opportunities. After Ned McCormack’s break failed to yield results, Leeds exhibited patience and persistence near the Wolves’ try line. Fergus McCormack made a daring dive through a gap and offloaded the ball to Harrison Gilmore, who scored the opening try after five minutes.
However, the Wolves swiftly responded, with Ben Hartill finding the try line. Logan Raughter’s half-break nearly set up Cai Taylor-Wray for a score, but Leeds’ strong defense only delayed the inevitable. Hartill capitalized on the situation, diving over from dummy half to level the score.
The momentum of the game swung back and forth between the two sides, and right after conceding, the Rhinos surged ahead once again. Penalties against the Wolves trapped them near their own try line, and impressive coordination between former East Leeds duo Mason Corbett and Bobby Hartley set up Freddie Brennan-Jones for a remarkable try. Jack Sinfield successfully converted the try, giving the visitors a 12-6 lead.
Pat Irwin kept the Wolves in the contest, twisting and turning his way to the try line after receiving an offload from Lucas Green. Leeds’ Dylon Braddish was denied a try due to a forward pass, even though he had kicked the ball out on the full.
Just before halftime, Warrington secured a crucial score, taking the lead. A leftward shift caught Leeds off guard, and Jake Thewlis capitalized on his centre partner Arron Lindop’s run to touch down in the corner. Noah Booth converted all the tries in the first half, resulting in an 18-12 lead for the Wolves at halftime.
Shortly after the second half began, the Wolves extended their lead to twelve points as Nolan Tupaea crossed the try line. Leeds responded positively, creating scoring opportunities, but Neil Tchamambe’s effort was ruled offside. Nonetheless, Fergus McCormack managed to breach the Warrington defense, narrowing the gap to a single score.
Brennan-Jones was once again denied a scoring opportunity, and Warrington responded with great resolve. Lindop’s break placed the Wolves deep into Rhinos territory, and under Booth’s guidance, Tupaea powered through for another try.
As the game entered its final ten minutes, the outcome hung in the balance, and the Rhinos seized their glimmer of hope for a potential victory. Brilliant handling from Sinfield, Declan Ementon, and Ned McCormack created enough space for Tchamambe to finish in the corner, with Sinfield calmly slotting the conversion.
With Warrington on the back foot, Leeds knew their moment was approaching, and Riley Lumb became the hero with the game’s most crucial try. Operating in a tight space on the edge, Sinfield and Lumb rekindled their connection as the full-back evaded two Warrington defenders and grounded the ball to bring the score to 30-28 with only seconds remaining. In the face of a swirling wind at the Halliwell Jones, Sinfield’s conversion attempt narrowly missed the mark as time expired, leaving the Rhinos to suffer their third defeat of the season by the slimmest of margins.