A first win at Warrington since the 2011 play-offs got Leeds off to a strong start in the defence of their Super League crown.
A Jamie Jones-Buchanan opener after 15 minutes was quickly followed by a Ryan Hall try, putting Leeds into a good position early on. Bryson Goodwin found his way over on his Warrington debut to close the gap before the break, but a sensational second from Hall mid-way through the second half earnt the Champions the win despite Tom Lineham’s late score providing a tense finish to the game.
Beating an unpredictable Wolves side, who fielded new signings Tyrone Roberts and Ben Murdoch-Masila and were playing under their new coach Steve Price for the first time competitively, is a big statement from the Rhinos as they started the new season with a win for the first time in 3 attempts as they began life without club legends Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow in a positive manner.
Of the new signings Richie Myler made the biggest impact, often causing his former side problems and helping the Rhinos see the game through in an impressive display in the halves. That type of leadership and organisation is something the Rhinos have been lacking at times in recent years, especially during Danny McGuire’s absence. Fellow new boys Brad Dwyer, also returning to his old club, and Nathaniel Peteru put in good performances as they showed what they will offer to their new side as they came off the interchange bench.
Other stand out performers include man of the match Jack Walker, who put in a number of try saving tackles and continued to show his huge potential at full back. Joel Moon, now Leeds’ permanent 6, was always looking to create openings and combined well with Myler in what was a promising start to a new half back partnership. Ryan Hall also looked more like his old self, recording a brace while threatening on numerous other occasions and putting in a solid defensive shift too.
As expected in the first game of the new season, it was far from a perfect performance from the Rhinos, who wasted a number of opportunities to add more to their tally leading to a nervy ending for the visitors when Lineham capitalised on Walker’s mistake following a high kick.
However, there were some signs that Brian McDermott’s side would meet one of their pre-season target of being more entertaining than they were for large parts of last season, and looked particularly dangerous from kicks. 2 of the Rhinos’ 3 tries came from accurately placed chips over the Warrington defensive line. As Moon and Myler play more together the attacking systems can only become more fluid.
A commitment to defensive responsibilities was also demonstrated, keeping Warrington to just one score per half despite them seeing plenty of ball in Rhinos territory, something that will have pleased the coach and fans.
It was a confidence boosting start to 2018 for Leeds, who will now begin preparations to take on Hull KR at Elland Road next Thursday. The Loiners will likely hope to post a good amount of points on the newly promoted Robins as they look to get their attack flowing, build momentum and raise morale further ahead of the huge World Club Challenge clash with NRL Premiers Melbourne Storm in Australia in two weeks time.