Super League: Warrington Wolves 18-6 Leeds Rhinos
|First Utility Super League|
|Warrington Wolves (12) 18|
|Tries: Penny, Ratchford, Atkins Goals: Ratchford 3|
|Leeds Rhinos (0) 6|
|Try: Briscoe Goal: Sinfield|
Warrington Wolves ended Leeds Rhinos's 100% Super League record with a home victory built on huge defence.
Converted tries from Kevin Penny and Stefan Ratchford gave the home side a 12-0 first-half lead.
Wolves maintained the same pressure in the second period and were rewarded when Ryan Atkins punished an error close to the line for an easy score.
Tom Briscoe's well-worked try was not enough for Leeds, who were leapfrogged by St Helens at the top of the table.
Leeds' unbeaten run was ended on the same night that their England full-back Zak Hardaker was dropped by the Rhinos, after the club confirmed he is involved in a police investigation.
Warrington dominated much of the game with suffocating defence that kept Leeds pointless at the break while also being sharp in attack against the pre-game league leaders.
|The wait goes on for Kevin Sinfield|
|Leeds' free-scoring start to the season raised hopes of Kevin Sinfield breaking the 4,000-point barrier against Warrington on Friday, with just five needed to reach the milestone at the start of play. However, Warrington's defence denied him more than the one opportunity he slotted from the tee, although just three points are now required when the Rhinos welcome Wigan to Headingley on 20 March.|
By contrast, the travelling side took more than an hour to find any rhythm, too late to mount a genuine challenge for the two points.
Penny grabbed the opening score when he skipped along the Rhinos' line before straightening up to glide between Adam Cuthbertson and Stevie Ward and cross despite teenager Ashton Golding's best efforts.
Gareth O'Brien's clever grubber kick forced Leeds into a drop out and a similar dink shortly afterwards teed up Ratchford for his try, after a lengthy video referee review.
The half-back had a chance to make it a three-score lead on the hooter but knocked on while in the drop-goal pocket.
Leeds trailed Hull FC 12-0 at half-time in their previous fixture, but while they scored 43 unanswered points at the KC Stadium that day, Warrington's fierce defence was a much tougher prospect against which to mount a comeback.
Frustration turned to desperation for Leeds, who lost the ball close to their own line, allowing O'Brien to feed centre Atkins for a simple touchdown.
That try roused the visitors, who finally showed their class when a series of supporting runners including Kallum Watkins combined to present Briscoe with a score.
Cuthbertson's try was chalked off for a knock-on amid belated Rhinos pressure, but Warrington held firm to move level on points with the Rhinos.
Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith:
"There was a little improvement in our kicking game, some improvement in our attack and a huge improvement in our defence.
"We were on it tonight. I thought Matty Russell was great and Daryl Clark was a big contributor but we had a lot of good performers."
Smith on Gary Wheeler's calf injury:
"He strained it in the team run and had a scan on Friday afternoon. We thought he was going to play but we got the result of the scan and it's a grade one tear."
Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott on Zak Hardaker's absence:
"It's not been ideal. It's not something you would or should have to deal with. But what we did have was 17 very committed men.
"We are conducting our own internal investigation while this is going on."
On Ashton Golding's performance:
"He didn't have chance to do much with the ball because Warrington were too good defensively but he will have learnt some really good lessons.
"For a young man to play Super League anyway is a big call but to play against a very good Warrington team who were on the money, he will wake up with bruises and stiff tomorrow.
"Our attack was clearly not there but you've got to give the Warrington defence a lot of credit, they were really switched on. They shut down a lot of our early plays."
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Penny, Currie, Atkins, Russell; Bridge, O'Brien; Hill, Clark, Sims, Philbin, Laithwaite, Westwood.
Replacements: Higham, Asotasi, B. Evans, G. King.
Leeds: Golding; T. Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, S. Ward, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan.
Replacements: Burrow, Leuluai, Delaney, Singleton.
Referee: Phil Bentham