Leeds Rhinos farewelled Kevin Sinfield at Emerald Headingley tonight, but they were just unable to mark their director of rugby’s departure with a victory.
Instead it was a current star, George Williams, who won the game for Warrington, with an 80th-minute field-goal that sealed a one-point victory in a thrilling match that was characterised by plenty of mistakes, but which was a compelling game throughout.
Sinfield received a standing ovation from the Leeds supporters before the game, prior to his departure to the other code.
The Rhinos were without Kruise Leeming, who suffered a reaction on his ankle before the game, meaning Brad Dwyer started the game at hooker.
The Rhinos were first to score when Harry Newman, playing only his fourth game since returning from injury, touched down after a smart pass from Richie Myler that came shortly after the Rhinos had been awarded six more tackles and Williams had been caught out of position, as he tried to fit in with his new team-mates.
Ben Currie almost got over the line but was kept out by strong Leeds defence, but they couldn’t defend a short dummy-half pass from Daryl Clark that put a charging Mike Cooper over the line. Rhyse Martin and Stefan Ratchford had converted both opening tries for a 6-6 scoreline.
Leeds were gifted field position when Blake Austin couldn’t take a misdirected pass from Clark, before the Wolves conceded a penalty, allowing them to create the space for Brad Dwyer to feed Mikolaj Oledzki for a similar try to the one Cooper scored four minutes earlier.
The Wolves then scored their second try shortly after forcing a goal-line drop-out when Austin picked up a bouncing ball from Williams and went straight through a hesitant Rhinos’ defence to touch down for an equalising score.
On 23 minutes Leeds were caught offside and they were caught again with an infringement in the ruck.
The Wolves piled on the pressure and Josh Charnley got over the line, but was superbly held up by Richie Myler.
The Rhinos were awarded another penalty for offside, and they attacked from deep inside the Wolves half.
And Luke Gale, stripped of the captaincy recently, decided it was time to step up, Brilliant footwork and a superb offload to Brad Dwyer near the Wolves’ line saw the hooker touch down for the Rhinos’ third try of the evening.
The Wolves won a relieving penalty when Liam Sutcliffe aimed a kick at Tom Lineham, which the Wolves winger dealt with successfully, but he was tackled in the air by his opposite number Tom Briscoe.
Daryl Clark took advantage to dive over the Leeds line, but dropped the ball as he was trying to touch it down.
Charnley then dropped the ball while trying to play it and Leeds were presented with another opportunity but as Tom Holroyd spun his way over the line, referee Kendall called a dubious forward pass from Dwyer.
The Rhinos were harshly penalised for a dubious ball-steal from Tom Lineham, but the Wolves couldn’t take advantage when Austin dropped the ball in a Myler tackle.
The half ended with Warrington being awarded a set restart, only for Ratchford to immediately drop the ball, which just about summed up the mistake-ridden nature of the Wolves’ first half.
Myler suffered a cut head and was given a head bandage.
Charnley was pulled up for an incorrect play-the-ball near his own posts, and Gale almost got over the line, but as Leeds kept the ball alive Cameron Smith was tackled on the sixth to relieve the pressure.
Myler brilliantly took an Austin bomb and the Rhinos had to bring the ball out of defence, with Martin kicking the ball downfield to Ratchford, with Austin setting up a counter-attack involving Williams and a great assist from Ratchford, with Charnley touching down in the right corner.
Referee Kendall sent it to the video referee Robert Hicks, recommineding that a try be awarded. Hicks spent a long time examining whether Dwyer had held him up, but eventually deciding that the try should be awarded. Ratchford added a superb conversion from the touchline.
Harry Newman then lost possession to give the Wolves more encouragement. Williams chipped over the Rhinos’ defence and just failed to reach the ball before it went dead, with he and Myler clattering into the advertising hoarding.
At the other end, a grubber kick from Gale was collected by Ratchford near his own line.
Sutcliffe made a superb break and handed on to Handley, but Ratchford’s tackle was superb. The Rhinos move the ball quickly to the left, but couldn’t sustain their attack.
The referee penalised Prior for a high tackle on Chris Hill and the Wolves decided to kick for goal from 30 metres, and Ratchford’s successful kick gave the Wolves the lead.
When Jack Hughes challenged Gale after he had passed the ball, the Rhinos were awarded a kickable penalty, while Hughes was sinbinned. Martin’s penalty levelled the scores, but the Rhinos now had the momentum against the 12-man Wolves.
Currie was then harshly penalised for a high tackle on Donaldson and the Rhinos took advantage through Newman, who skipped across the defensive line before finding a gap to score a superb opportunist try.
The Wolves were still in it, however, and when Tom Briscoe gave a forward pass to Myler they had another chance to attack.
And Danny Walker, who had been a late entrant to the game off the bench, set off from dummy-half from 15 metres out and beat the retreating Rhinos’ defence with brilliant footwork to touch down, with Ratchford’s goal again equalising the scores as Hughes came back onto the field.
And it was the Wolves who finished the game in the driving seat, with Williams, who had enjoyed a quiet debut for his new team, kicked a superb field-goal straight into the Warrington supporters to win a thrilling game and win over the Wolves’ fans on his first appearance.
GAMESTAR: Richie Myler was accomplished in everything he did and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.
GAMEBREAKER: George Williams’ winning field-goal was a great way to cap his debut.
TOP TACKLE: Richie Myler’s tackle of Josh Charnley, which saw the Wolves winger held up over the line.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: Harry Newman’s try showed superb acceleration and brilliant judgment, as well as putting Leeds into the lead.
16 Richie Myler, 2 Tom Briscoe, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 3 Harry Newman, 5 Ash Handley, 15 Liam Sutcliffe, 7 Luke Gale, 10 Matt Prior (C), 14 Brad Dwyer, 8 Mikolaj Oledzki, 25 James Donaldson, 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Zane Tetevano, Subs, 17 Cameron Smith, 18 Tom Holroyd, 19 King Vuniyayawa, 24 Luke Briscoe, Also in 21-man squad, 9 Kruise Leeming, 20 Bodene Thompson, 26 Jarrod O’Connor, 31 Morgan Gannon, ,
1 Stefan Ratchford, 2 Tom Lineham, 18 Jake Mamo, 4 Toby King, 5 Josh Charnley, 6 Blake Austin, 31 George Williams, 8 Chris Hill, 9 Daryl Clark, 10 Mike Cooper, 11 Ben Currie, 12 Jack Hughes (C), 15 Matt Davis, Subs (all used), 16 Danny Walker , 19 Robbie Mulhern, 20 Sitaleki Akauola, 26 Ellis Longstaff, Also in 21-man squad:, 17 Matty Ashton, 23 Josh Thewlis, 25 Eribe Doro, 27 Connor Wrench,
Penalty count: 7-6
GLDO forced: 0-1
Referee: Chris Kendall