Warrington Wolves 32 Leeds Rhinos 6 - Richard Agar hails youthful Rhinos

Leeds coach Richard Agar has sympathy for Challenge Cup final opponents Salford, arguing losing two players on the eve of Saturday’s match is “a bit of a tragedy”.

Sam Walters scores Leeds Rhinos' try. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Four days out from the final, the Red Devils announced that two of their players have tested positive for Covid-19 and revealed two were stood down after their results proved inconclusive.

“I feel for them because we’ve been through it ourselves,” Agar said after his virtual reserve team lost 32-6 to Warrington. “To lose them on the eve of final is a bit of a tragedy really.

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“We’ll prepare for the best Salford, it will galvanise them and add a bit of unknown.

“I feel for the kids concerned and for their organisation given the magnitude of the game.”

Agar fielded a youthful team which included a maximum of four players - Jack Walker, Adam Cuthbertson, Tom Holroyd and Cameron Smith - in with a chance of playing at Wembley and he was delighted with the way they gave the Wolves a scare.

Warrington enjoyed home advantage at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, even if there was no crowd, but they never looked at ease against their tigerish opponents, who trailed only 8-6 at half-time.

As against Catalans Dragons in the week leading up to the Rhinos’ cup semi-final, the inexperienced Leeds players tired towards the end as the Wolves ran in three tries in the final quarter to earn a flattering margin of victory.

Agar said: “Again I thought the effort, determination and commitment was incredible.

“At half-time the boys were really excited about coming out for the second half.

“We had a couple of backs drop out late and that was the 17 we had, we had a couple of guys playing out of position.

“So scoring points against a good defensive team was always going to be a challenge.

“With 20 minutes to go we took the decision to look after a couple of guys who could have a stint at the weekend and it was understandable that it blew out in the last 15 minutes - for some of the guys it was their second game in Super League.

“I’m really proud of them and again we learned a lot about our young kids in there. They backed it up and improved on their first showing.

“I’m disappointed for them that the scoreline blew out but for 65 minutes they made a real game of it.”

Winger Matty Ashton scored two of his side’s five tries as Warrington climbed back into the top four at Leeds’ expense.

“It was scrappy at times but we got the result,” said coach Steve Price.

“We had a high level of intent at the start but I just thought we had it upside down after that - we passed before we ran and it bit us on the backside.

“We got bogged down on our tryline and indiscipline crept in.

“We spoke at half-time about how the opportunities would come and that’s how it transpired.

“A bit of execution needs to improve but at the end of the day it was a good win for us.”

Warrington: Ratchford, Ashton, King, Gelling, Charnley, Widdop, Patton, Hill, Walker, Robson, Currie, Hughes, J. Clark. Substitutes: D. Clark, Akauola, Davis, Johnson.

Leeds: Walker, L. Briscoe, Thompson, Evans, Tindall, Broadbent, McLelland, Holroyd, O’Connor, Cuthbertson, Walters, Ferres, Smith. Substitutes: Whiteley, Mustapha, Harrison, McConnell.

Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL).

Super League fixtures

SUN Oct 25 Wakefield v Hull KR (2.00) Belle Vue MON Oct 26 Catalans v Warrington (6.15) Stade Gilbert Brutus, Salford v St Helens, (5.30), Leeds v Castleford (7.45) both Headingley THUR Oct 29 Leeds v Wakefield (5.30) Belle Vue, Hull KR v Hull FC (7.45) St Helens FRI Oct 30 Warrington v Salford (5.30), St Helens v Wigan (7.45) both St Helens, Huddersfield v Castleford (5.30) John Smith’s Stadium, SUN November 1 Wakefield v Leeds (2pm) Belle Vue.

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James Mitchinson