Channel 4 and Warrington Wolves big winners as Leeds Rhinos are denied

IF CHANNEL 4’s producers could have written a script for their first live Super League fixture, they would probably come up with something pretty close to what Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves delivered at Headingley on Saturday.

The round one clash had just about everything: controversy by the bucketload, good tries, crunching defence and a tense, dramatic finish.

All it really lacked was the right winner.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In front of a crowd of more than 14,000, who created a vibrant, passionate atmosphere, Leeds were unfortunate not to get their season off to a successful start.

Leeds Rhinos' Zane Tetevano goes over to score Leeds first try. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Rhinos were the better team throughout, but they played for 64 minutes with 12 men and were down to 11 for a 10-minute spell either side of the interval and weight of numbers told in the end.

James Bentley, a Leeds fan as a child, had waited all his life to play for his home city club, but the forward’s debut went spectacularly wrong when he was sent-off after 16 minutes for a high tackle on Gareth Widdop.

Rhinos had Brad Dwyer yellow- carded late in the first half for a late tackle on the passer and also lost Richie Myler to a potentially long-term groin injury in the opening period and another debutant, winger David Fusitu’a who did not return for the second half.

Fusitu’a took a knock to the head in a tackle from Ben Currie which went unpunished by Kendall, a ruling which clearly annoyed Rhinos coach Richard Agar.

Leeds Rhinos' David Fusitu'a helped to his feet after a late tackle. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Redressing the balance somewhat, Warrington did have Oliver Holmes, in his first game since joining then from Castleford Tigers, sin-binned in the second half for a high tackle on James Donaldson.

Leeds couldn’t really argue against the cards shown to Bentley and Dwyer.

The RFL have made no secret of the fact they are cracking down on any contact to the head or after the ball has been passed and teams will have to get used to being a player – or more – down at times this season.

However, Leeds were hard done to with at least a couple of crucial calls.

Presenter Adam Hills leading Channel 4's TV coverage of the RFL Super League with the opener at Headingley. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

The pass from Stefan Ratchford which created the decisive try for Connor Wrench, less than seven minutes from full-time, was clearly forward and a knock-on was missed in the set leading up to the first of Josh Charnley’s brace. Ratchford converted Wrench’s try for his third goal and Widdop opened the scoring with a long-range effort created by Matty Ashton, but other than that, Leeds dominated against a Warrington side obviously still finding their feet under new coach Daryl Powell.

Starting props Zane Tetevano and Matt Prior were unlikely scorers of Leeds’ first two tries of the season, both off short passes close to the line from Dwyer, while Ash Handley did well to touch down a grubber kick from captain Kruise Leeming, who had a fine game, early in the second half.

Rhyse Martin converted all three and booted a penalty following Holmes’ sin-binning, which opened a 10-point lead.

It was a remarkably courageous display by Leeds’ Papua New Guinea Test forward, who, it was revealed after the game, was mourning the sudden death of his father in Australia last week.

Martin is expected to be missing for Friday’s game at Wigan and Leeds will need to dig deep into their squad, but if they can repeat the resolve shown against Warrington, they will be a difficult team to beat this year.

Leeds Rhinos: J Walker, Fusitu’a, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Handley, Myler, Sezer. Tetevano, Leeming, Prior, Bentley, Martin, Smith. Subs Donaldson, Gannon, Dwyer, Oledzki.

Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Charnley, Mata’utia, Wrench, Ashton. Widdop, Williams, Mulhern, D Clark, Cooper, Currie, Holmes, Davis. Subs Bullock, D Walker, Philbin, J Clark.

Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).