Leeds Rhinos managed to reclaim victory at Headingley Stadium during Round 22 of the Betfred Super League, triumphing over Warrington Wolves with a scoreline of 24-22.
Sam Walters’ solitary try in the initial half was followed by a robust performance in the latter half. This second-half display witnessed David Fusitu’a, James Bentley, and Luke Hooley successfully breaching the try line. Notably, Hooley’s try marked his inaugural score for the club. Throughout the entire 80 minutes, the Wolves remained competitive and could have potentially secured a last-minute victory.
The Rhinos welcomed back Harry Newman and David Fusitu’a into the matchday squad, constituting the sole changes from the preceding Round 21 loss to Leigh. Fusitu’a took the place of Luis Roberts, commencing alongside Rhyse Martin as a wing partner. Meanwhile, Newman, who returned to action after an absence since May’s end, featured on the substitutes’ bench. Corey Johnson continued to partner Aidan Sezer in the halves, while the remainder of the starting 13 retained their positions. The bench consisted of Sam Lisone, James Donaldson, and Tom Holroyd, with Jack Sinfield participating in the Reserves match subsequently.
The visiting Wolves initially gained an advantage, securing a score during their maiden attacking set. The rejoining forces of Matty Ashton and Peter Mata’utia orchestrated Warrington’s advancement into striking distance. Subsequently, a manoeuvre along the short side culminated in Matt Dufty’s kick ahead and his own corner try. Following a review by the video referee, the decision was confirmed as valid.
The Rhinos faced pressure, with the Wolves consistently confining them to their own half during the initial ten minutes. Warrington nearly capitalised on this, as Josh Thewlis almost secured a try in the corner after a rapid sequence of passes. However, the video referee observed that the winger had stepped out of bounds.
Leeds responded energetically as Ash Handley and Nene Macdonald began to exploit gaps behind the Wolves’ defensive markers. An offload by Cam Smith enabled Sam Walters to launch an offensive, but the young forward failed to retain possession of Aidan Sezer’s subsequent pass, squandering a significant opportunity.
Nonetheless, the forward didn’t have to wait long to achieve his fifth try of the Super League season. A penalty against Matty Nicholson for impeding James Bentley provided a boost to the Rhinos. Capitalising on this, with multiple repeat sets near the Wolves’ try line, Smith utilised a quick play of the ball from Sam Lisone to pave the way for Walters’ much-needed try.
Martin’s conversion bestowed Leeds with a narrow lead. However, the Wolves swiftly retaliated, with Ashton profiting from a break by Dufty, thereby shifting the momentum back in favour of Gary Chambers’ squad.
The closing stages of the first half witnessed missed opportunities for both sides as tension gripped Headingley. A reminiscent break that led to Ashton’s try wasn’t capitalised upon by Danny Walker, who fumbled the ball. Similarly, James McDonnell came close with a determined drive for Smith’s side. Following Ben Currie’s attempt to catch and score, the Rhinos sought to construct an attack, yet Newman’s intended pass for Handley hit the ground as the half concluded.
The early phases of the second half witnessed the Wolves extending their lead by two points due to penalties and errors committed by the Rhinos. While Mata’utia and Thewlis approached the Leeds try line, the turnover of possession on the last tackle culminated in Nicholson capitalising on a slow play of the ball by Macdonald. A subsequent offside penalty marked the breaking point, prompting Ratchford to capitalise on the opportunity and convert a penalty goal, widening the gap to six points.
Unperturbed, the Rhinos retaliated with Fusitu’a’s return to form. A costly mistake by Thewlis during the play-the-ball proved advantageous for the Rhinos. Sezer exploited the away side’s defensive line, orchestrating a high bomb that Fusitu’a caught above the outstretched Ashton, subsequently securing a try.
With the score level at 12-12, the ensuing move for either team assumed crucial importance. Stefan Ratchford exploited a lapse in Leeds’ defence, breezing through to restore the Wolves’ advantage. Leeds faced additional pressure when their restart kick veered out of bounds.
Miraculously, the home team withstood the pressure, keeping their hopes alive. After George Williams’ obstruction denied a try on the opposite end of the field, Sezer skillfully received Macdonald’s offload and penetrated the Warrington line. Selflessly, he passed to support player Luke Hooley, who scored his first try for both the Rhinos and the Super League. Martin’s pivotal conversion sailed through the uprights, propelling Leeds to an 18-16 lead with 15 minutes left.
Bentley secured back-to-back tries, igniting pandemonium among the crowd as they sensed an imminent victory. Smith’s return from the bench allowed the loose forward to exploit a gap in the defence. However, Hooley’s supporting play fell short of yielding him a second try in the match. Matty Ashton had committed to tackling Hooley, and the Rhinos executed a swift shift to the right, where Macdonald delivered an astonishing offload, allowing Bentley to glide over the try line.
Nicholson’s consolation try set the stage for a tense final ten minutes. However, a palpable sense of relief permeated as the final whistle resounded, confirming the Rhinos’ first victory since the beginning of July.