Wakefield Trinity Wildcats caused a festive upset in the opening pre-season match of the new season, seeing off Super League champions and treble winners Leeds Rhinos in a rain-sodden affair at Headingley.
Some would argue that the weather was the sole winner on a day where the result mattered little and West Yorkshire was beset with flooding following an incredible deluge over the festive period.
But the Wildcats, showing off a number of new signings who all impressed at various stages, put in a defensive masterclass to keep the champions to just one try, scoring two of their own to secure victory.
That the Leeds side contained ten members of last season’s Grand Final winning side illustrated just how strong the team Brian McDermott had put out was, but they found the obviously tough conditions even trickier to play in than the Wildcats for the most part.
The game started with more of the focus on injuries rather than points; within five tackles Scott Moore had been withdrawn by Wakefield due to injury, and new Rhinos signing and opposite number Beau Falloon would follow two minutes later after a heavy collision in the tackle – one of two occasions the Aussie was withdrawn due to heavy contact.
The entire first half yielded just six points as both sides found the going tough, but ti was the visitors who got them when Liam Finn, arguably one of Wakefield’s best performers on debut, set up a break that eventually saw prop Anthony England mark his debut with a try.
Wakefield even managed to a survive a period either side of half-time with 12-men; Leeds had broken the Wakey line with a scintillating break, but Tom Johnstone was adjudged to have held down Ashton Golding for too long, and he was sent to the sin-bin.
The Rhinos started the second half the stronger of the two sides but they still couldn’t find a way through, and when the Wildcats were offered a shot at goal after Leeds conceded a penalty on their own line, Jordan Tansey obliged from the kicking tee to make it 8-0.
Golding had enjoyed a flawless opening hour at full-back in the absence of England international Zak Hardaker, but when he and Danny McGuire misjudged a stabbed kick by Finn, Scott Anderson dived on the loose ball to put Wakefield 14-0 up.
It was beginning to look like Leeds would not break a stubborn Wakefield side all afternoon, with the Wildcats defending magnificently all afternoon.
But the Rhinos did at least ensure they would register some points when Rob Burrow’s long pass found its way to Carl Ablett, who dived over for a late consolation.
A full report and photos will appear in Monday’s League Express
Leeds: Golding; Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, Handley; McGuire, Burrow; Galloway, Falloon, Singleton, Achurch, Ablett, Cuthbertson. Subs: Walters, Lilley, Garbutt, Baldwinson, Jones, Smith, Roberts, Oledzki.
Goals: Lilley 1/1
Wakefield: Jones-Bishop; Lyne, Arundel, Tupou, Johnstone; Miller, Finn; Scruton, Moore, Anderson, Ashurst, Kirmond, Sio. Subs: Arona, England, Yates, Howarth, Gibson, Tansey, Hall, Walton.
Tries: England, Anderson
Goals: Finn 1/1, Tansey 2/2
Sin-Bin: Johnstone (34, holding down)
Penalty Count: Leeds 5-5 Wakefield
Men of the Match
Leeds: Ashton Golding
Wakefield: Liam Finn