Warrington Wolves 4-40 Leeds Rhinos: Highlights, player ratings and talking points

Having had a struggling attack all season, Rohan Smith’s Rhinos’ revolution took hold tonight giving Leeds a new lease of life with the ball as they demolished the Wolves with ease tonight leapfrogging them in the table as boos rang out at the Halliwell Jones.

Highlights:

Two of the best tries that never were
Twice in the opening five minutes, Warrington carved open the Leeds left edge. The first saw Connor Wrench dart down the wing and the second was orchestrated by a Daryl Clark break. However, both came to nothing. You could chalk it up to some scrambling defence or poor decision making but both chances were squandered. The first saw a long ball inside find a stumbling Oliver Holmes who was brought down by Rhyse Martin and Richie Myler before the second resulted in a wayward kick to the corner from George Williams.

Leeming masterminds the Leeds attack
After those two nearly moments, Leeds took their first chance a minute later thanks to their captain fantastic Kruise Leeming. First his short ball put Cameron Smith through and after he’d been dragged down, Leeming jumped out of dummyhalf and did what Williams couldn’t to picked out Fusitu’a with a kick to the corner for the opening try.

Rhinos desperation in defence
After those two near misses from the Wolves earlier in the game, Leeds denied them twice more with scrambling defence. First Peter Mata’utia was held up by Liam Sutcliffe before Leeds wrapped up George Williams after he’d seemingly danced his way through the defence.

Wolves doing something different
People tend to think that the key to scoring tries is good shape and feeding the ball out wide via the pivots and fullback all coming out the back. However, teams can trap themselves in this and become predictable. The way around this is putting a twist on this and that’s what the Wolves did to score their first try. Instead of hitting Gareth Widdop out the back, they hit lead runner Ben Currie who popped the ball onto the mobile Widdop who created a try for Matty Ashton who dived in at the corner.

Maestro Myler
You will not see a better more innovative pass than this. Richie Myler barely had the ball in his hands a second before he popped the ball inside for Zak Hardaker who sailed through. He then teed up skipper Leeming for a deserved try.

Back-to-back scores thanks to Zak being back and back at the back
Zak Hardaker is back at Leeds Rhinos and back at the back as the fullback and he conjured up Leeds’ next score. After being a threat in space all game, a gap opened up and he had the strength to twist his way through for Leeds’ third.

Rhinos make it three in a row
A fourth try swiftly followed thanks to innovative attack Leeds fans have been waiting for all season. A long ball opened space for Rhyse Martin who sent Fusitu’a down the wing. He was tackled but on the next play, Blake Austin had the presence of mind to pick out Ash Handley with the boot who tapped it back to Liam Sutcliffe who produced a magnificent offload to James Donaldson to score.

Warrington stay alive
Ben Currie will always be remembered for being on the wrong end of a try saving tackle at Wembley in 2016. He however made a key tackle to keep Warrington alive after the 50 minute mark to deny a darting Kruise Leeming a second try.

More innovation from the Rhinos
Leeds’ attack may have stuttered all season, but today it clicked and showed great innovation as they did for their fifth try of the game as Brad Dwyer darted from the back of the scrum to find Richie Myler who set up Ash Handley for a lovely try down the left.

Both wingers make it two
Both Handley and Fusitu’a haven’t really had the chances they’d have liked to score in 2022, but both got braces tonight showing the shift in the way Leeds played tonight. Handley’s second was particularly impressive as he ran the length after an intercept.

Talking Points:

Helter Skelter Stuff
This is what summer rugby is all about – the sun being out on a Friday evening and two teams playing at 100mph despite tough starts to the season. The attacking opportunities carved out by both teams in the first half indicated that both teams were full of endeavour despite their recent struggles. This is how modern rugby is meant to be played. Ultimately, it became about taking those chances which Leeds did that far better.

The Rohan Smith effect
For all of Leeds’ star players and big signings going into 2022, they’ve had the worst attack in the league this season which has resulted in their struggles this campaign. However, now given time to get his ideas across with a week off last week, the Leeds attack looked reinvigorated with some expansive rugby and importantly with players pushing up in support hitting gaps when Kruise Leeming darted out of dummy half. They stretched the Wolves and also hit them hard down the middle willing to play off the cuff and it made for a thrilling first half. Leeds’ second try was as good as you’ll see in the sport.

Leeds spine now unshiftable
Leeds had two notable players not in the side tonight who play key positions due to injuries. Jack Walker and Aidan Sezer are the men in question but the way the Leeds spine performed they could be unshiftable. Zak Hardaker, Richie Myler, Blake Austin, Kruise Leeming and Cameron Smith all played magnificently linking together and stretching the Warrington defence. It leaves both Sezer and Walker with work to do to get back in the side.

What next for Warrington?
Before tonight’s game I suggested that defeat could end either side’s season. That may have been an exaggeration after all the Wolves are still on 10 points and depending on results could still be just two points off the play-offs. However, the performance tonight will have fans worried especially after their great showing against St Helens last time out. This cannot be allowed to happen again or their season could dissolve. The Wolves fans certainly think so booing throughout the game.

Is Zak Hardaker one of the signings of the season?

Zak Hardaker and Richie Myler have helped reinvigorate Leeds’ attack alongside Rohan Smith. Hardaker’s signing was called into question by plenty but he has spiced up their attack magnificently with direct running and pushing up around the ball. He’s helped dig the Rhinos out of a serious hole.

Player Ratings:

Warrington Wolves
6 Gareth Widdop โ€“ 5
23 Connor Wrench โ€“ 6
3 Peter Mataโ€™utia โ€“ 6
4 Toby King โ€“ 5
5 Matty Ashton โ€“ 7
1 Stefan Ratchford โ€“ 5
7 George Williams โ€“ 4
8 Joe Philbin โ€“ 5
9 Daryl Clark โ€“ 4
10 Mike Cooper โ€“ 6
11 Ben Currie โ€“ 5
12 Oliver Holmes โ€“ 5
18 Billy Magoulias โ€“ 5
Substitutes
15 Joe Bullock โ€“ 5
17 Matt Davis โ€“ 4
19 Rob Mulhern – 5
32 Kyle Amor โ€“ 4

Leeds Rhinos
33 Zak Hardaker โ€“ 9
2 David Fusituโ€™a โ€“ 8
12 Rhyse Martin โ€“ 7
4 Liam Sutcliffe โ€“ 8
5 Ash Handley โ€“ 8
6 Blake Austin โ€“ 8
16 Richie Myler โ€“ 9
8 Mikolaj Oledzki โ€“ 9
9 Kruise Leeming โ€“ 9
13 Zane Tetevano โ€“ 7
21 Morgan Gannon โ€“ N/A
19 Bodene Thompson โ€“ 9
17 Cameron Smith โ€“ 9
Substitutes
10 Matt Prior โ€“ 9
14 Brad Dwyer โ€“ 8
24 Jarrod Oโ€™Connor โ€“ 7
25 James Donaldson โ€“ 7

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