A BOXING DAY crowd of more than 10,000 left Headingley Carnegie wondering if they had seen the emergence of a future star.
Leeds Rhinos already boast two international-class wingers in Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe, but teenager Ash Handley looks set to give them a run for their money.
The pacy 18-year-old England academy cap, who made one Super League appearance last year, ran in five tries as Leeds claimed the Tetley’s Festive Challenge trophy with a 50-28 demolition of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Handley, who was Leeds’s mascot for the equivalent game nine years ago, scored a first-half hat-trick and added two more – the last a length of the field sprint – in the third quarter.
Briscoe, playing out of position in the left-centre, provided the final pass for four of the youngster’s touchdowns and coach Brian McDermott said: “There were a couple of put downs, just getting on the end of it. But then there were a couple of tries when he showed some pace and strength – awareness and skill.”
Wakefield led 12-0 after seven minutes and were later 18-6 up on 16, before conceding 44 unanswered points.
Captain Danny McGuire was at the heart of all Leeds’s best moments, in a lively half-back partnership with Liam Sutcliffe.
Both were among the try scorers, with Stevie Ward and Elliot Minchella getting the others. Sutcliffe kicked seven goals.
Matty Ryan, Jacob Miller and Danny Washbrook were first-half scorers for Wakefield and Matty Ashurst and Pita Godinet touched down late on. Craig Hall kicked four goals.
McDermott reflected: “We were cracked open a few times, then we went through periods of defending really strong.”
There was less for Wakefield coach James Webster to enthuse about.
He said: “We came here hoping to see some positives and some things we’ve been working on.
“We also wanted to pick up where we are a bit short and obviously we are a still short defensively, in the middle especially – yet again. I thought we showed some good touches with the ball and a couple of things we’ve been working on came off, but we’re still a fair way off in the middle.”
Leeds Rhinos: Golding, Handley, Keinhorst, T Briscoe, Duckworth, Sutcliffe, McGuire, Leuluai, Aiton, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, S Ward, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: R Ward, Walters, Lilley, Mulhern, Yates, Minchella.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall, Johnston, Ryan, Washbrook, Owen, Miller, T Smith, Simon, McShane, Paea, Kirmond, Ashurst, D Smith. Substitutes: Riley, Kirke, Annakin, Godinet, Crowther, Jowitt, Moules, Swan, Molloy.
Referee: Ben Thaler.