CLUB LEGEND Jamie Jones-Buchanan got the farewell he deserved as Leeds Rhinos’ season – and his superb career – ended with a 26-4 win over Warrington Wolves last night.
READ MORE – I will always be a Leeds Rhinos fan says JJB
Leeds played well for what was their third win of the year against one of the final top-five.
The result and some good individual performances – will send them into the off- and pre-season in reasonably high spirits and with something to build on, but the night was all about Jones-Buchanan.
The 38-year-old – whose heritage number 1309 matches yesterday’s date – captained the team and played a total of 65 minutes in two spells.
He didn’t get over the line, but did convert Leeds’ third try to take his points tally for the club to 314.
Leeds were full value for their victory against a disinterested Warrington team who made enough mistakes to lose two or three matches.
Rhinos weren’t perfect either. Rhyse Martin’s kick-off was dropped by Blake Austin to give Rhinos an attacking opportunity in the first set, but – after strong runs by Nathaniel Peteru and Konrad Hurrell – Adam Cuthbertson knocked on Brad Dwyer’s pass.
That was an illustration of why Leeds have finished eighth. There has been too many missed opportunities like that all year, but Rhinos’ defence has improved hugely and they conceded only once, 11 minutes from time.
Rhinos led 8-0 at the break having scored the only try of an error-ridden opening 40 which they dominated without being able to take a firm grip of the game.
The second half was similar, Leeds doing most of the pressing, going 14-0 ahead before Warrington scored and then finishing strongly with two late tries.
As Jones-Buchanan – and the injured Carl Ablett – bowed out, the new generation stepped up, England academy hooker Corey Johnson getting 10 minutes at the end of the game to make his debut.
Jack Walker, just 20, had a fine game, both halves – Rob Lui and Richie Mayler – played well and there were good contributions from Martin and Stevie Ward, though – worryingly – he limped off late on.
Rhinos might not be be the best on the field at the moment, but the club know how to put on a show.
Including Ben Westwood – who is a week older than Jones-Buchanan and was playing his final regular season game – in the tributes for Leeds’ retiring legends was a nice touch, particularly as the Warrington man has had some controversial moments against Rhinos over the years.
Ash Handley couldn’t add to his tally of 22 tries but ran strongly. After 10 minutes he made a brilliant break up the middle with two team-mates on his right shoulder.
Jack Walker gathered the pass, but was superbly tackled by Daryl Clark. The former Castleford hooker took too long to get off and was, correctly, sin-binned by referee Marcus Griffiths.
Though Lui almost cut through, Leeds’ lack of attacking options was clear and Warrington held out, not only for that set, but also for the 10 minutes they were a man down.
Peteru – recalled to the team, with Mikolaj Oledzki dropping out – was held up over Warrington’s line after Clark’s return, but both teams made the sort of errors more typical of a wet night in April than a fine September evening.
Another example came 11 minutes before the break when Dwyer ran onto a nice inside pass from Myler, but knocked on when it looked like he was going to scoot through a gap.
A scoreless opening half threatened, but Leeds finally made a breakthrough on 31 minutes, off a Warrington error.
Jack Hughes threw a pass straight at a surprised Lui 30 out from Leeds’ line. The Aussie made it deep into Warrington territory before Clark, again, made the tackle.
But this time, Martin stepped in at acting-half and gave the ball to Liam Sutcliffe who put on some clever footwork to glide through for a try which Martin improved.
Sutcliffe started in the right-centre in place of Shooting Star Harry Newman whose run of 11 successive appearances was ended by a calf muscle injury.
Back to back penalties followed four minutes later and Martin took the two from the second of those. He was close to increasing the lead in the final moment of the half, but was held up over the line on the last.
Austin made a break in the next set, but Myler made a fine tackle to keep him out in what was only Warrington’s second chance of the half, after Josh Charnley knocked on with the line in his sights during the early moments. Both Leeds wingers went close at the start of the second period, Luke Briscoe needing treatment after being hurt in the attempt.
He played on and came up with a remarkable intervention to keep Tom Lineham out soon afterwards.
Clark broke up the middle and lobbed out a long pass to Bryson Goodwin who tipped the ball on to his winger.
Lineham hit the deck a few metres out, expecting to slide over the line, but Briscoe came across and instead forced the Warrington man into touch.
Briscoe knocked on in the next set, but then produced another fine tackle – aided by Lui and Sutcliffe – to keep Goodwin out in the next set.
Hurrell has been good value for Leeds this year and he gets fans on their feet whenever he touches the ball, though his tendency to make costly errors lets him down.
Ten minutes into the second half he was tackled into touch on the first play after a Leeds scrum deep in Warrington territory.
Moments later, at the other end of the field, he produced a superb tackle to stop Ben Murdoch-Masila and then doubled-up on the acting-half to shut down a dangerous attack.
From that, Walker created some space for Martin and his kick to the in-goal forced a drop-out from which Leeds scored their second try.
Lui took Dwyer’s pass at first receiver and ghosted through the defence for a fine solo touchdown which Martin improved.
Austin had a poor game, but his pass sent Charnley over with 11 minutes left. Stefan Ratchford couldn’t convert.
All season Leeds have been plagued by errors in sets after a try. On this occasion it was Warrington who turned the ball over and Rhinos made the result safe when Jones-Buchanan tipped the ball on to Cuthbertson who crashed over between the posts.
To the delight of most in the 14,085 crowd, Jones-Buchanan slotted over the conversion – the only goal of his senior career. There was still time for Briscoe to grab a deserved try on the final play – improved by Martin – after nice handling by Lui, Martin and Sutcliffe.
Rhinos winger Ash Handley finished as Super League’s joint-second top try scorer, one behind St Helens’ Tommy Makinson.
Castleford Tigers reached the play-offs after Hull FC lost at home to St Helens.