There are moments in a season that are the very definition of pivotal. If Leeds’ season is to end with success – whatever that looks like – this night will be one they will look back on with real fondness, you suspect.
With one win in Warrington in the past decade and a host of frontline players missing due to injury the chance of ending the Wolves’ recent good form seemed slim at best. But Leeds so often make a habit of defying the odds, and they did that here with one of the most spirited displays you will see all season.
Three of them – Mikolaj Oledzki, Kruise Leeming and Matt Prior – were asked to play their fourth game in 10 days. Leeds were battered and bruised, but they somehow held Warrington at bay to win a fourth successive match and move ever-closer to Super League’s play-off places after a laboured start to 2021.
“It shows what you can do when you’re working hard for each other,” Richard Agar, the Leeds coach, said after this courageous victory. The running scoreline suggested the game was won in the first half, with Leeds building a 20-6 lead Warrington were ultimately not able to overturn by full-time. However, it was the Rhinos’ resilience after half-time that was decisive.
Their three tries, through Robert Lui, Alex Mellor and Ash Handley, were outstanding, but it was the efforts fromthe tireless Prior that typified this performance best. The Australian was heroic in defence in the final stages, with Leeds down to 11 men after two yellow cards, yet somehow still holding on.
Rhyse Martin was another who stood out and his penalties either side of half-time put the Rhinos 22-6 ahead. Warrington certainly pressed in response, but a combination of stuttering attack and spirited defending ensured the late tries were ultimately in vain.
“They were the better team on the night and deserved the win – but our start wasn’t right,” Steve Price, the Warrington coach, said.
Leeds impressed in the first half, and by the time Warrington had added to Danny Walker’s first-half try late on, the Rhinos were almost over the line. Late yellow cards for Liam Sutcliffe and Lui added to the drama, but despite Josh Charnley’s two tries in the final five minutes, the gap was too big for Warrington to overcome.