Warrington Wolves put a dampener on Kevin Sinfield’s 500th appearance for Leeds as they completed a notable double over the Super League leaders in emphatic fashion at Headingley.
Sinfield was on the losing side on his debut for the Rhinos against Sheffield Eagles at Headingley in 1997 and he was powerless to prevent a repeat on his landmark occasion, with the Wolves running out comfortable winners.
The Rhinos were already trailing 20-4 when the former England captain entered the action five minutes into the second half and it did not get much better as the Yorkshiremen came up with their worst performance of the season in front of a 17,430 crowd.
Warrington had produced their best display in an 18-6 win over Leeds in March and they were again outstanding, with full-back Stefan Ratchford and second rower Ben Currie the pick of an impressive bunch.
Leeds had an early chance when prop Adam Cuthbertson was held up over the line but then it was virtually all Warrington as they established a stranglehold on the game.
Loose forward Ben Harrison was held up on his back before his back-row partner Currie produced a measured grubber kick on the last tackle to create a try for winger Gene Ormsby.
It was then Harrison’s turn to demonstrate his kicking skills to get his captain Joel Monaghan in for a second try, although there was a strong hint of a forward pass in the build-up.
With scrum-half Richie Myler causing all sorts of problems for the Rhinos defence with his penetrative running, the visitors were good value for their 8-0 lead and it got even better for them on 23 minutes when prop Ashton Sims took hooker Mick Higham’s pass near the line to go through a gaping hole for a third try.
Ratchford was off target with his first two attempts at goal but it was third time lucky as he made it 14-0 and a Higham 40-20 kick enabled Warrington to maintain the momentum.
Sinfield stayed on the bench throughout the first half but the introduction of forward Mitch Achurch helped perk up the Rhinos in the last 10 minutes and they pulled a try back in scintillating fashion when winger Kallum Watkins finished off a flowing move at the corner.
The Leeds captain entered the action five minutes into the second half but his side were well adrift by then after a break by lively substitute Daryl Clark created the position for Ratchford to get Currie over for Warrington’s fourth try.
And there was no way back for Sinfield’s men when Ormsby’s neat offload enabled substitute prop Roy Asotasi to score his first try for more than 12 months.
Ratchford kicked his third goal to stretch his side’s lead to 26-4 and increased it with a penalty on 63 minutes after Jamie Peacock was pulled up for a high tackle.
The home side pulled a try back five minutes later through Achurch and Sinfield kicked the goal but it was little more than consolation and the Wolves had the final say when stand-off Declan Patton slotted a drop goal to open his account for the club on his third appearance.
Asked if he could put his finger on what went wrong, McDermott said: “I don’t think we were that far off really throughout the whole game.
“I didn’t think Warrington were that far in front throughout the whole game, but then they were three tries in front within a short period of time really.
“Then the game takes on a different focus and we have to look at doing different things.
“We clearly started to over-play a bit in that second half, so it was a range of things really.
“Credit to Warrington. They were presented with some opportunities in the first half and nailed them.
“I don’t know what their completion and possession rates would be like, but they made very few errors.
“We played a good version of Warrington and got beat.
“Probably the result and the fact we were never really in the game was the similar feature between this game and the game over there.”
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Watkins, Ablett, Moon, Handley, Sutcliffe, McGuire, Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, S Ward, Delaney, Singleton. Substitutes: Burrow, Sinfield, Achurch, Mulhern.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Monaghan, Bridge, T King, Ormsby, Patton, Myler, Hill, Higham, Sims, Currie, Westwood, Harrison. Substitutes: Clark, Asotasi, Laithwaite, England.
Referee: J Child (Batley).