PICTURES EDDIE WHITHAM
WARRINGTON Wolves’ new era under Steve Price started with defeat as they were beaten 16-12 by champions Leeds in their Super League opener.
The Rhinos held on at the death after a late Tom Lineham try set up a frantic final 90 seconds in what was an underwhelming opening bow for the Wolves.
A superb Ryan Hall try, a 60 metre burst, in the second half put Leeds beyond arms reach after they had led 12-6 at half time.
Debutant Bryson Goodwin had given Warrington a platform in the first half, after Leeds had threatened to cut away on the half hour mark.
It was a typical early season opening to the game, with both sides feeling each other out.
Warrington perhaps shaded the opening exchanges, though skullcap-less full-back Jack Walker soaked up everything that was thrown at him and returned it with change.
The Wolves had gone with Kevin Brown alongside marquee signing Tyrone Roberts, who looked understandably short of match fitness. He did, however, run in the first hit up of the match and did get involved in defence, though perhaps his failed attempt to find touch with a kick from inside of his own half inside 15 minutes was a sign that maybe a quick tempo didn’t suit him.
It was down the Wolves right, which included Roberts, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Ryan Atkins, that Leeds looked most likely to threaten and so it proved for their opening try.
Wide-running Joel Moon, now a regular at six for the Rhinos and starting alongside former Wolves scrum half Richie Myler, found space and fed Ryan Hall and after the play had broken down, Moon put up a low banana kick which was excellently plucked out of the air by Jamie Jones-Buchanan for the first try of the game.
That started a period of play where the Super League champions looked likely to grab hold of the game.
Three minutes later, another last tackle play, another kick and another try, this time Hall getting on the end of a Myler chip up, with Warrington slightly aggrieved by a non-call on a possible obstruction the tackle previous.
Leeds weren’t going to stop to wonder and they almost burst through the middle for a possible third score, Myler just unable to cling on to a Matt Parcell pass.
The Rhinos tails were up and a deep kick was spilled by Ratchford to set up yet more field position. Ratchford was guilty of a second knock-on at the end of the set, this one a lot more difficult as he failed to pick up a grubber kick, and as Mike Cooper was whistled for offside, that enabled Kallum Watkins to nudge over another two for 12-0.
Warrington were on the rack, but the return of Goodwin from a medical assessment on the half hour mark fired them in to life.
He entered in place of Murdoch-Masila, and soon had the crowd behind him after earning a penalty for obstruction on the left.
From that, Brown dummied and scampered through a gap and finished just millimetres from the line, but eventually the Wolves would get on the board, and it was Goodwin claiming a pass on the left and finding a route to the line for 12-6.
A sign perhaps that the tide was turning in the Wolves favour came when Brown’s long kick to touch from a penalty was falling short, only to be spilled out by the usually reliable Hall.
That led to a period of pressure in the redzone, Ratchford going close as he tried to make amends for his earlier errors, Atkins had a pass out the back door batted down on the right and from the extra set, Ben Westwood spilled the ball with the line at his mercy near the posts.
It was an uninspiring start to the second half, with Warrington and Roberts in particular unable to inject any spark to the attack.
And after one warning, where Hall burst through and was backed up by first Watkins and then Walker before ultimately the break was ended, Leeds added their third try.
This time Hall didn’t need any support as he broke the line from 60 metres and brushed off Ratchford to race to the left hand corner.
As they had done in the first half, this gave Leeds momentum and after Adam Cuthbertson was held up short, Goodwin prevented Watkins from claiming a Moon kick in goal.
The game looked to be petering out but Warrington burst in to life in the final five minutes.
Roberts finally linked up with Murdoch-Masila but a brilliant tackle by the excellent Walker denied them a chance, and on the other side, Goodwin was held up over the line – the fifth time that had happened in the match for the hosts.
The unfortunate Walker blotted his copybook when he spilled Roberts’ towering kick to gift an easy try for Lineham with 90 seconds to play, but it was too little too late for the Wolves.
Warrington: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, Russell, K Brown, Roberts, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Murdoch-Masila. Subs: Westwood, Philbin, G King, Patton.
Leeds: Walker, Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall, Moon, Myler, Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney. Subs: Dwyer, Mullally, Peteru, Ormondroyd.
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) February 2, 2018