Warrington sealed a 22-20 win over Leeds in a thrilling showdown at Headingley in the Super League debut for Channel 4.
Leeds coach Richard Agar handed three debuts to the club’s off-season signings David Fusitu’a, Aidan Sezer and James Bentley. Blake Austin couldn’t face his former club Warrington due to serving a one-match suspension.
Meanwhile, Daryl Powell led Warrington for the first time since becoming head coach. Peter Mata’utia, Oliver Holmes and Joe Bullock made their debuts for the Wolves.
Warrington opened the scoring in the 12th minute as Matty Ashton made a break down the wing to assist the supporting Gareth Widdop.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rhinos in five minutes later. Ireland international Bentley was sent off on his debut for a high shot on Widdop.
But the red card galvanised Leeds. They had a fire in their belly and prop Zane Tetevano bulldoze his way over from close range.
Australian prop Matt Prior capped his 300th career appearance with a try in the 25th minute.
But the Rhinos suffered another blow on the half hour mark as hooker Brad Dwyer was sent to the sin bin for a late hit on Widdop.
Warrington made the most of having the extra men and the ball went wide to Josh Charnley who scored. Ratchford converted but they trailed 12-10 at the break.
More on Channel 4
HT: Leeds Rhinos 12-10 Warrington Wolves
Ash Handley extended Leeds’ lead shortly after the second half restart, with Rhyse Martin converting.
Already under the pump, Warrington were given another blow in the 48th minute. Oliver Holmes was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on James Donaldson.
Charnley got his second on the hour and brought Powell’s side back into the game. Ratchford, who was captain for the day, converted and they were just four points behind.
After trailing for most of the game, Connor Wrench tied the score at 20-20 with five minutes to go. England international Ratchford showed nerves of steel as he nailed the conversion from out wide and secure the win for Warrington.
FT: Leeds Rhinos 20-22 Warrington Wolves
Leeds: Walker; Fusitu’a, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Handley; Myler, Sezer; Tetevano, Leeming, Prior, Bentley, Martin, Smith. Subs: Dwyer, Donaldson, Gannon, Oledzki.
Tries: Tetevao, Prior, Handley Goals: Martin 4
Warrington: Ratchford; Charnley, Mata’utia, Wrench, Ashton; Widdop, Williams; Mulhern, D Clark, Cooper, Currie, Holmes, Davis. Subs: Philbin, J Clark, Bullock, Walker.
Tries: Widdop, Charnley (2), Wrench Goals: Ratchford 3
Three talking points
Excellent Channel 4 coverage
History was made on Saturday as Super League was shown on terrestrial television for the first time ever. Channel 4 has agreed a two-year partnership with Super League, showing 10 games per season.
Channe 4’s coverage certainly didn’t disappoint. The pre-match build-up was excellent with the feature piece with Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin. Mark Wilson did a tremendous job on commentary, with St Helens prop Kyle Amor making a great summariser. Long may the good work continue.
More cards to come
It hasn’t been the best couple of days for debutants in Super League, has it? Catalans Dragons prop Dylan Napa was sent off on Thursday night, and Bentley was red carded on his Leeds debut.
There were also two yellow cards shown at Headingley, and there will be plenty more cards shown this season under the new rules that have been put in place.
Referee Chris Kendall got every big call right. He managed the game well and let it flow where he could.
Back with a bang
Super League is back and don’t we know it. Thursday night saw a Grand Final rematch between St Helens and Catalans and it was a fiery encounter, followed by two firecrackers on Friday night.
But Saturday saw the match of the round. Leeds and Warrington produced heroic performances to put on a real treat for the public watching at Headingley and on Channel 4.
Rugby league was the real winner today. Here’s hoping for a massive year for the game we call the greatest.