Warrington Wolves 16 Leeds Rhinos 22: Exhausted Leeds produce stunning effort

SOMETIMES, it is just all about effort. On effort. On effort.

Indefatigable Leeds Rhinos, playing their third game in nine days, produced a quite remarkable display last night to secure a fourth successive victory.

Where they summoned the energy from to end Warrington’s six-game winning run in Super League is anyone’s guess.

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They had turned on the style to lead 20-6 at half-time, stylish full-back Liam Sutcliffe and winger Ash Handley causing all manner of problems for the hosts.

However, then Richard Agar’s side spent the majority of the second period defending their own line, time after time repelling Steve Price’s side.

Furthermore, they were reduced to 12 men after Sutcliffe ended Josh Thewlis’ break with a high tackle which saw him yellow carded in the 70th minute.

Josh Charnley immediately scored for the hosts and then, to increase the tension, the West Yorkshire club went down to 11 with five minutes to go.

Robert Lui produced a try-saving tackle on Blake Austin but then hung around in the ruck too long.

Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley celebrates his try with Alex Mellor (SIMON HULME)
Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley celebrates his try with Alex Mellor (SIMON HULME)

With Leeds players out on their feet, Handley raced across to drag down a breaking Ben Currie but, in the next play, unmarked Charnley gathered Austin’s crossfield kick for his second try with 91 seconds remaining.

Stefan Ratchford improved and Warrington thought they might have one last chance to strike but Daryl Clark could not pick up Austin’s pass under pressure from an ecstatic Brad Dwyer as gutsy Leeds found one last reserve of energy to hold on for a famous win.

It is hard to pick out individuals in such a performance but veteran Australian Matt Prior - who has played in all four games - was towering up front, ably supported by his young front-row partner-in-crime Tom Holroyd.

James Donaldson and Dwyer brought all their usual effervescence, and the relentless Rhyse Martin gave one of his best performances in a Leeds jersey.

Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley scores (SIMON HULME)

Warrington have had it tough, too, although their last three games had at least been spread over a dozen days and they will be disappointed with some of their execution in that second period.

Leeds’ resilience in defence was perhaps best illustrated when, leading 22-6 in the 53rd minute, they scrambled desperately to recover when Tom Lineham looked certain to score.

Handley initially made the cover tackle on Austin after some fine offloading up the middle had splintered Agar’s side and the Leeds winger then got across to help pull down Lineham, the winger who landed just short of the line and could not resist a double movement.

Soon after, Leeds were on the ropes once more but yet again they held on as Lineham cut in from his wing, leaving defenders hanging on but also throwing a wild pass that the visitors gleefully picked up.

Leeds Rhinos' Robert Lui goes up for his try. (SIMON HULME)

Rhinos were 20-6 up at half-time having produced some lovely football.

Sutcliffe, in particular, proved incisive from full-back, causing Warrington’s right-edge all manner of problems.

He came into the line on numerous occasions to help unpick them and it was no surprise left winger Ash Handley enjoyed his return to action so much.

Initially, however, it was Sutcliffe’s boot that caused the damage, lofting a kick that hung near the Warrington posts and gave Robert Lui just enough time to arrive and rise above full-back Josh Thewlis to score after just seven minutes.

Rhyse Martin slotted the first of his five goals before the hosts responded with a try of their own nine minutes later.

Blake Austin managed to slip Ben Currie away and, though Martin did well to chase down the England second-row, Danny Walker eventually got through some tired defence after Toby King went close.

Stefan Ratchford’s conversion levelled the game but his side rued a glorious missed chance in the restart set when Tom Lineham this time escaped down their right.

The Leeds-born winger’s pass infield to Danny Walker, though, was hopelessly forward when a try was certain.

Rhinos were let off later in the half when Daryl Clark, the former Castleford hooker with his input after coming on off the bench, darted away in his custoimarty style only for Walker this time put the final pass down.

By that point, Sutcliffe had already helped create the visitors’ second try with a wonderful cut-out pass for Handley to confidently fend off ex-England winger Josh Charnley and brilliantly find Alex Melllor with the inside pass.

They almost scored in the next set, too, when Warrington needed Ratchford to desperately scramble back and haul down Kruise Leeming, forcing the ball clear in the process.

After Walker’s second miss, more quality handling from Sutcliffe this time gave Tom Briscoe to similarly impress handing on to Handley who showed great strength to cut infield and hold off three defenders to score.

When Lineham lost the ball on the first tackle coming away from his own line, Leeds applied yet more pressure with Donaldson, Holroyd and Dwyer all powering close.

King eventually raced out of the line to intercept Dwyer’s pass and race up the other end but the centre was brought back for being offside, gifting Martin another easy two points.

Handley looked destined for his second try when Sutcliffe fashioned more space down the left but Charnley, crucially, just got a hand to his pass to avoid more damage for his side.

Prior smashed Joe Philbin at the start of the second period - he did that to a lot of Warrington forwards - to get the ball back and, when Thewlis went high on Donaldson, Martin kicked his second penalty of the night.

Then came that remarkable defensive effort. At least they can rest up now - until leaders Catalans Dragons arrive at Emerald Headingley on Friday.

Warrington Wolves: Thewlis; Charnley, Mamo, King, Lineham; Austin, Ratchford; Hill, Walker, Cooper, Hughes, Currie, Davis. Substitutes: Philbin, Butler, Akauola, D Clark.

Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe; L Briscoe, Broadbent, T Briscoe, Handley; Lui, Leeming; Oledzki, Dwyer, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Thompson. Substitutes: Donaldson, Holroyd, Hurrell, O’Connor.

Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan)