Having secured a point from last weeks drawn game with Hull FC the Warrington Wolves played host to the high flying Leeds Rhinos, still smiling from last weekends win over the Wigan Warriors. Victory for the Wolves could see them off the bottom, should the Vikings slip up at Trinity, but the Rhinos knew that a win would see them back level top with near neighbours Castleford Tigers.
Both coaches had changes forced upon them. The Wolves were without a concussed Kevin Brown who was replaced by Declan Patton, and the Rhinos will be without the services of Brett Ferres for six games and he was replaced by Liam Sutcliffe.
The Rhinos last won at the Halliwell-Jones in 2011 and were keen that tonight would not continue their bad run.
The game was just sixty seconds old when Ben Westwood took out Liam Sutcliffe after he'd put in the first in-play kick of the game. Westwood was shown the yellow card, some may say he was lucky it wasn't a red, and Sutcliffe was helped from the field, his night was over.
Leeds kicked for position and within forty-five seconds of the sin-binning Tom Briscoe went over over a Kallum Watkins pass. Ashton Golding failed to add the conversion but it was the start which the home fans were dreading.
On ten, Ryan Atkins dropped the ball under pressure from Jimmy Keinhorst on the Leeds line. But three minutes later, and on the back of two penalties, Ryan Atkins caught a Tom Lineham knock back off a Declan Patton cross field kick to ground in the left corner. Patton kicked brilliantly from the touchline to edge his side ahead.
After repeated infringements the Rhinos were put on a team warning on twenty-four. After being on their best behaviour for five minutes, the Rhinos conceded second try when Atkins caught a Kurt Gidley kick, fell over the line backwards, and grounded his second of the night. Later replays showed that Atkins appeared to loose the ball before scoring but referee Child had already pointed to the spot. Patton added the extras and the Wolves were 12-4 ahead.
A thirty-third minute Atkins effort was given by the referee, but over-ruled by the video official when it was clear that Tom Briscoe had grounded the ball before the Wolves centre for his hands on the ball.
This was a much better forty minutes from the Wolves against a determined Leeds defence. The home side were well worth their lead at the interval.
Two minutes into the second half the Wolves moved the ball left and Tom Lineham found space to go ten metres down the wing to score in the corner. Patton put his conversion over off the far upright and at 18-4 the Wolves were looking increasingly confident.
Two tries for the Rhinos in the space of eight minutes got them right back in the game.
On fifty-three Matt Parcell made the most of some great Leeds pressure when he reached out to score but Ashton Golding failed to add the extras. Just after the hour mark, on the back of two quick penalties Joel Moon showed an electrifying turn of speed as he evaded three tacklers to go over from twenty metres. Kallum Watkins took over the kicking duties and kicked the extras two for a scoreline of 18-14 and it was all to play for.
The Wolves put the game to bed on sixty-seven when Kurt Gidley backed himself to score as he powered to the line and when Patton added the extras the game was won. Just to be sure Patton added a drop goal in the dying seconds to ensure the Wolves first Super League win of 2017 which lifts them off the bottom of the table.
This was a much improved Warrington Wolves performance against a Rhinos side who came to the Halliwell-Jones determined to take the two points. Some ill-discipline from the Rhinos and the early loss of Liam Sutcliffe will bear the brunt of the Leeds excuses but make no mistake this was a well deserved win from a determined Wolves side.
Tony Smith will hope that this is the foundation for a winning run which lifts his side up into the top eight and gives them a shot at a top four spot come to end of the season. While the Rhinos will be disappointed they will regather and look to take maximum points out of the Easter fixtures.
Wolves: Ratchford, Russell, King T., Atkins (2T), Lineham (T), Patton (4G, DG), Gidley (T), Hill, Clark, Sims, Westwood (SB), Hughes, Westerman. Subs: Philbin, Dwyer, King G., Evans.
Rhinos: Golding, Briscoe (T), Watkins (G), Keinhorst, Hall, McGuire, Moon (T), Garbutt, Burrow, Cuthbertson, Sutcliffe, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Subs: Mullally, Delaney, Parcell (T), Walters.
Referee: James Child.