In the traditional friendly between West Yorkshire rivals Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity, the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge at AMT Headingley Stadium, both sets of fans arrived with a skip in their step.
Despite the optimism among Leeds fans for the new season, Wakefield struck first. Leeds probed with a quick move inside their own half but the ball went to ground. Wakefield earned possession and a lovely and well weighted kick behind from Myles Lawford was grounded by Romain Franco in the corner. The conversion went wide leaving Wakefield 4-0 ahead.
Leeds were instantly afford the chance to retaliate but when Derrell Olpherts was given the ball by debutant Lachie Miller, his grubber kick went straight out.
Given a penalty for a high tackle, Wakefield marched down field and forced a goal line drop out. Leeds attempted a short drop out but Wakefield came up with the goods. In the disarray, Wakefield exploited the space down their left with Matty Ashurst going through a gap to score.
Max Jowitt converted this time and had another effort a minute later as he picked up the loose ball from another failed short kick off as he raced away from Miller to score. He converted to make it 16-0.
It was after this that Leeds started to turn things around. They should have scored when Jack Sinfield’s kick to the corner found Ash Handley but somehow Wakefield were able to keep him up.
Leeds eventually got a try back when they moved the ball from left to right from Matt Frawley to Jack Sinfield to Miller who darted back to the left before grubbering behind for Luis Roberts to score after some near misses. Sinfield converted to make it 16-6.
Just as Leeds looked to be turning the screw, Miller was probing again and he threw a pass out only for it to be intercepted by try scoring machine Lachlan Walmsley who ran the length to score and make it 22-6 on the halftime hooter.
Despite the fact Rohan Smith made a vast number of changes at the break, Leeds had enough fire power on the side to score three tries back to back to turn the game. The first was an intercept from Jack Smith before his namesake was on hand to score after an amazing break from debutant Andy Ackers who carved Wakefield up down the middle.
A minute later he did so again down the left edge before feeding Derrell Olpherts who raced away to score after swapping edges. He would then put Leeds in front with a spectacular finish in the corner after a great ball from Miller who like Ackers was now on two assists for the day.
After some near misses, notably from Luis Roberts’ amazing break, Leeds nailed a drop goal courtesy of Jack Sinfield.
The Rhinos sealed the win when Mickael Goudemand powered over to make it 35-22 with Sinfield converting his fifth goal.
Sinfield continued to impress and teed up Tom Nicholson-Watton for a deserved try to make it 41-22.
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