Leeds Rhinos welcomed Warrington Wolves to Headingley as both sides looked to push themselves up the table.
An early penalty from Leeds allowed the Wolves to attack the try line and a high kick from Gareth Widdop was collected by Toby King on the last tackle. Unfortunately for the visitors the centre couldn’t quite ground the ball.
The Rhinos were not shy in defence with Matt Prior putting a big hit on Blake Austin which left the half-back wincing in pain for a good few minutes.
The home-side were the first to score as they exposed a jagged Wire line. Full-back Jack Walker ducked his way underneath the tackle of Toby King and stepped inside three defenders to score.
On 12 minutes, Warrington conceded a kickable penalty as Rhyse Martin added two points for a 8-10 lead.
With only 15 minutes of the game gone, the pitch had cut up significantly and both sets of players we’re struggling to cope with the heavy ground underfoot.
Jack Walker was one of those players as he seemed to pick up an ankle injury after catching his boot in the mud during what seemed like an ordinary tackle.
Warrington did manage to open up some space on the left hand edge after some quick hands out to Tom Lineham. However, Brad Dwyer and co refused to let the winger past and bundled him into touch.
Leeds once again found themselves in good field position and a Robert Lui kick ricocheted off Ben Currie and was picked up by an offside Daryl Clark for a penalty. Martin once again converted to extend the Rhinos lead.
With Walker off injured, Richie Myler was placed at full-back and he gifted the Wolves perfect attacking position as he knocked-on on his own try line.
Wire failed to punish the Rhinos for Myler’s error as Ben Murdoch-Masila dropped the ball when attempting to play the ball. Much to the makeshift full-backs delight.
Konrad Hurrell made his presence known as he charged up the field but loose hands from the centre gave Wire the chance to attack once again.
Lineham thought he’d made a break but the play was brought back for obstruction as Ratchford made sure Martin couldn’t tackle the winger.
With the home-side back on the front foot, the hammered at the Wire line with Cameron Smith going over before being held up.
This allowed Myler to go from zero to hero, as the ball was pushed out to the left hand edge, and the full-back ran at a gap between Blake Austin and debutant Keenan Brand to slide over and score as half-time approached.
HALF-TIME: Leeds Rhinos 14-0 Warrington Wolves
The second half started a little more evening that the end of the first, but Leeds were determined to extend their lead.
A kick from Harry Newman bounced around and after Ratchford blocked Robert Lui’s attempted poke through, the ball landed in the arms on Myler who passed the ball inside to Brad Dwyer as he beat three Wire defenders to score a well-deserved try.
The pitch was causing havoc with the footing of players with Alex Mellor slipping just before Ben Murdoch-Masila hammered the Rhinos second-tower around the head.
The Tongan picked up a yellow card and it was most likely Mellor’s slip that made Robert Hicks not pull out the red card.
Just a few tackles later, Konrad Hurrell bounced out of the tackle of Keanan Brand and looked to have grounded the ball.
Hicks sent the decision to video referee Chris Kendall as a try and no clear evidence that the try hadn’t touched the ground, he had no choice but to award the try.
The Rhinos looked to turn on the style as Lui threw a beautiful pass out to Luke Briscoe but the winger was pushed into touch by the Wire defence.
With still over 20 minutes to go, Leeds kept up their offensive efforts and this time it was Ava Seumanufagai who bundled his way over after Dwyer switched the ball back onto his right hand edge.
Just moments later, the Rhinos scored try number six as Richie Myler found himself in a pocket of space and whipped the ball out wide to Ash Handley with the winger dotting down.
Murdoch-Masila returned to the field but that couldn’t stop the Rhinos from running a mock of the Wire defence.
After forcing yet another goal-line drop out, the Rhinos broke through the defence thanks to a perfect line from Harry Newman. Fortunately for Warrington, Lui’s pass was slightly forward and the play was brought back by Hicks.
Leeds closed the game out as the final 10 minutes ticked by, as the likes of Hurrell, Smith and Gale looked to catch their breath after a huge defensive shift to stop the Wolves.
Despite winning a penalty just before the full-time hooter, Warrington couldn’t quite get passed the tired Rhinos defence as Widdop’s kick was palmed into touch my Harry Newman.
FULL-TIME: Leeds Rhinos 36-0 Warrington Wolves
Men of the Match: Brad Dwyer and Richie Myler
The hooker doesn’t often play a full 80 minutes but due to the injury to Jack Walker, he played out the whole game. His running game caused the Wire defence plenty of problems down the middle of the park. His quick decision making to switch the ball back inside for Seumanufagai’s try was sublime as were his reactions for his own try. As well as being superb going forward, the hooker made plenty of tackles as the Wolves, who only nilled champions Saints three weeks ago, were kept to zero themselves.
Thanks to Walker’s injury, Myler was forced to fill in a full-back and despite an early dropped ball which nearly let Wire back into the game he showed that his versatility is a key asset for the Rhinos. He picked up a try of his own but also picked up two try assists in a home rout of last seasons Challenge Cup winners. He proved a point as he looks to push for a starting spot. He could well start at full-back depending on how serious the injury to Walker is.
Walker, Briscoe, Newman, Hurrell, Handley, Lui, Gale, Seumanufagai, Dwyer, Oledzki, Mellor, Martin, Prior.
Interchanges: Myler, Smith, Donaldson, Cuthbertson
Tries: Walker, Myler, Dwyer, Hurrell, Seumanufagai, Handley
Goals: Martin (6/8)
Ratchford, Lineham, Brand, King, Charnley, Austin, Widdop, Hill, D. Clark, Cooper, Currie, Murdoch-Masila, J. Clark
Interchanges: Philbin, Davis, Johnson, Burrell
Referee: R. Hicks
Touch Judges: L. Moore, M. Craven
Video Referee: C. Kendall