It was a basement battle at Belle Vue as pointless Wakefield Trinity faced a pointless Leeds Rhinos with the two rivals, separated by a fifteen-mile journey on the M1, went head-to-head to open their points account for 2022. The winner would know that they would still have a long way to go, but the losers would be low on confidence, and already with a mountain to climb to get near the play-offs.
Wakefield coach Willie Poching had Mason Lino, Kelepi Tanginoa, Lewis Murphy, and Yusuf Aydin in his seventeen, while the Rhinos, pretty in pink, welcomed back Harry Newman, Rhyse Martin and David Fusitu´a into their starting thirteen in a major boost for the visitors.
When Morgan Gannon was taken out in the air while trying to catch a high kick on two minutes the Rhinos used four tackles to work the ball left into the hands of David Fusitu´a to force his way over the line, despite the attentions of three tacklers. Rhyse Martin smashed the ball between the uprights from the touchline.
On seven minutes the Rhinos were in again, Gannon on hand to complete an enterprising passing move down the left side through half a dozen pairs of hands after a Mikolaj Oledzki bust down the middle. Martin added the conversion for 12-0 with nine minutes on the clock.
On fourteen Blake Austin found Harry Newman with a glimmer of space down the right wing and after bouncing out of the tackle the winger got the ball down on the corner. Martin was unable add a third conversion of the night, the Rhinos scoring at a point a minute.
Wakefield conceded a set restart and then a penalty on their own line and Martin elected to kick the penalty goal to extend the lead to three converted tries. Wakefield seemingly had no answer to the Rhinos onslaught.
Just before the half hour an awful defensive mistake from Lewis Murphy, failing to take a high kick, allowed Ash Handley to take the pass and stretch for the line to score one-handed. Martin found his line and length again for 24-0.
With three minutes left on the clock the Rhinos were in again as Handley danced through a broken Wakefield defence to dot down under the posts for the fifth unanswered try from the men in pink. Martin added the conversion, and the Rhinos took a 30-0 lead into the sheds, Trinity not in the game.
After three games of suffering, the Rhinos had found some sensational form and were putting Trinity to the sword.
On fifty-minutes Wakefield finally registered their first try as Matty Ashurst was on hand to take a Johnstone pat back from a Mason Lino high kick to go five metres and score. Max Jowitt put his conversion in off the upright for 6-30. It was a much better second half for Wakefield.
Murphy was the culprit again on the hour mark when he knocked on at the play-the-ball on his own twenty. On the first tackle fast hands from the Rhinos saw a flying Handley over in the corner for his hat-trick try. Martin pulled his conversion wide of the near upright.
On sixty-five a reckless high tackle saw Kruise Leeming in the sin-bin, able to consider himself lucky that it wasn´t a red card.
Three minutes form time Jowitt chased down a Liam Kay grubber kick after Mason Lino went through the Leeds line. He converted his own try and when Tom Johnstone strolled thought a tired Leeds defence off a Jowitt pass it completed a decent second half for the home side. Jowitt added the conversion for a final score of 18-34.
Wakefield won the second half, and put in a much better performance, but a devastating first half from the Rhinos saw the game well won by half time, and although it won´t have pleased coach Agar the players could be forgiven for taking their foot off the gas. Newman was a revelation when he was on the field and Handley proved a point with his hat-trick of tries but it was an all round team performance.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt (T, 3G), Johnstone (T), Batchelor, Pitts, Murphy, Lino, Miller, Arona, Bowes, Whitbread, Ashurst (T), Tanginoa, Crowther. Subs: Kay, Fifita, Battye, Aydin.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Handley (3T), Newman (T), Sutcliffe, Fusitu´a (T), Austin, Sezer, Oledzki, Leeming (SB on 65), Prior, Martin (5G), Gannon (T), Tetevano. Subs: Smith, Dwyer, Thompson, Briscoe.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-16, 0-18, 0-22, 0-24, 0-28, 0-30 : HT : 4-30, 6-30, 6-34, (SB), 10-34, 12-34, 16-34, 18-34 : FT .
Referee: Chris Kendall.