Warrington start with commanding win over Leeds – talking points & player ratings

James Gordon

Warrington started their season with an impressive 26-6 victory over Leeds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

They did the damage in the first half, with tries from Stefan Ratchford, Josh Charnley and Daryl Clark, despite spending 10 minutes with 12 men.

They would add a fourth try through marquee signing Blake Austin on the hour mark, before Leeds scored a late consolation through Stevie Ward after Toby King had been sinbinned for a tip tackle on the loose forward.

Early on, there was no real indication of the one-sided nature of the game as both sides felt each other out at the start of the season, a year on from when Leeds beat the Wolves in their 2018 opener.

Leeds broke through down the left on 12 minutes through Ash Handley and as he passed inside to Konrad Hurrell for a near certain try, the Tongan international was tackled without the ball by Jack Hughes, who was sent to the sinbin for his efforts.

But despite their numerical disadvantage, the Wolves would take charge of the game in the 10 minutes they were down to 12.

After seeing off the initial threat and making their way up the field off the back of a penalty, play opened up for the excellent Ratchford who dummied and then made his way over the line under pressure from Matt Parcell and Jack Walker.

He converted his own score and then tagged a penalty on so that when Hughes returned, his side were 8-0 to the good.

A mistake by Tom Briscoe then set the platform for Warrington’s second try, Charnley going over in the corner after Ryan Atkins took the play down the blindside, Ratchford converting for 14-0.

The hosts made it two tries in three minutes shortly after the half hour mark, Clark wriggling out of a challenge and crawling over the line under the posts, with the video referee showing he hadn’t been tackled despite his ball carrying arm hitting the floor.

They took a 20-0 lead in to the break, but only after Ratchford managed to hold up Jack Walker three minutes from time.

The second half was low on entertainment as the Wolves comfortably managed the game, without ever looking under a great deal of threat from the Rhinos.

Austin lit things up shortly before the hour, putting King through a gap and then backing up on his inside for try number four, Ratchford making it five from five with the boot.

The only blotch on the Wire copy book came in the final few minutes, Ward finding his way over the line as Leeds made their advantage pay, having seen King sinbinned for a tip tackle on Ward with eight minutes to play.

Three talking points

Ratchford is just as important as Austin

Warrington full-back Stefan Ratchford put in a classy performance at both ends, and was involved in everything good that the Wolves did. Often overlooked in discussions for the top players in Super League, and also for national team selection, his all-round ability is an incredible asset to the Wolves and if they are to make it their year, he will be pivotal.

Leeds have a lot to do

After a disappointing campaign in 2018, any hope that a few new signings and a new coach would be a quick fix were well and truly diminished in this one. Wingers Tom Briscoe and Ash Handley need to step up to the plate, and the forwards need to give a platform their outside backs in Konrad Hurrell and Kallum Watkins to do more damage. But they have the quality, and they should be more top five than bottom five this campaign once David Furner gets them clicking.

The old guard still have it

Ben Westwood and Ryan Atkins may well be in the twilight of their careers, but they both turned in solid performances for the Wolves to show they still have their part to play. Atkins kept Hurrell, who may have picked up a knock in a challenge with Westwood, for large parts and Westwood was his typical all action self with the number 34 on his back. How Leeds missed their very own veteran, Jamie Jones-Buchanan will surely be an important cog in the rebuilt Rhinos engine in what will be his final Super League season.

Line-ups & ratings

Warrington: Ratchford (9), Lineham (7), Charnley (7), Goodwin (7), Atkins (7), Austin (8), Patton (7), Hill (6), D. Clark (8), Cooper (7), King (7), Hughes (7), Westwood (7). Subs: J. Clark (6), B. Murdoch-Masila (6), Philbin (6), Walker (6).

Leeds: Walker (7), T. Briscoe (5), Watkins (6), Hurrell (6), Handley (6), Lolohea (5), Myler (6), Cuthbertson (6), Parcell (7), Merrin (6), Ferres (6), Ward (7), L. Sutcliffe (6). Subs: Dwyer (6), Singleton (6), Donaldson (6), Oledzki (6).

Attendance: 13,098

Gordon’s gambit

The ideal start for Warrington, an impressive win in front of a bumper crowd with marquee signing Blake Austin clicking in to gear straight away.

After two finals last year, they will be desperate to win some silverware this season, and this performance shows that they are head and shoulders above Leeds currently.

For the Rhinos, David Furner will have known he had a job on his hands to turn them around after a disappointing 2018, and one game isn’t going to change that. Tui Lolohea struggled to influence the game behind a beaten pack, and though Matt Parcell and Richie Myler tried their best to spark them in to life, there just wasn’t that cutting edge.

It’s going to be interesting to see where Leeds wind up in the table over the coming weeks – while some fancy Warrington and St Helens to be stronger than the rest.