Challenge Cup finalists Leeds provided another glimpse into the future and it looks bright after the next generation of players made Warrington work surprisingly hard for a 32-6 Super League victory.
Rhinos coach Richard Agar fielded a virtual reserve team, which included a maximum of four players in with a chance of playing at Wembley on Saturday, and will be delighted with a performance that was packed with energy and commitment.
Warrington, who had Dec Patton deputising for the injured Blake Austin, enjoyed home advantage at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, even if there was no crowd, but they never looked at ease against their tigerish opponents, who trailed only 8-6 at half-time.
As against Catalans Dragons in the week leading up to the Rhinos’ cup semi-final, the inexperienced Leeds players tired towards the end as the Wolves ran in three tries in the final quarter to earn a flattering margin of victory.
The energy of the youngsters combined with the experience of Bodene Thompson, Adam Cuthbertson and Brett Ferres proved to be a potent mix for Agar’s team.
There was no hint of the struggles ahead when centre Toby King latched onto a kick from Patton to score the opening try on his 100th appearance for the club just four minutes into the game.
Stefan Ratchford added the conversion and scored the Wolves’ only other points of the first half with a penalty as they struggled to wear down their youthful opponents.
A ball steal by stand-off Jack Broadbent deep in Warrington territory gave the Rhinos an ideal attacking position and rangy second-rower Sam Walters made full use of it by powering his way over from 15 metres out.
Jarrod O’Connor, son of former Great Britain prop and Sky commentator Terry, kicked the conversion to tie the scores and Warrington were temporarily reduced to 12 men when substitute forward Sitaleki Akauola was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
There were still only two points in it when Thompson forced a goal-line drop-out with a perfectly-judged grubber kick and then came up with a half-break that almost produced a try for full-back Jack Walker.
It proved to be a pivotal moment for Warrington immediately worked their way upfield and King created the space for winger Matty Ashton to go over for the first of his two tries.
That put the home side six points in front and there was no way back for Leeds when King regained the ball from Patton’s kick and put second-rower Ben Currie over for their third try.
Currie ought to have created a fourth after being put in the clear by Gareth Widdop but he made a mess of the final pass.
However, fatigue had set in for the visitors by then and, after Ratchford had put his side three scores in front with a penalty, Warrington cut loose in the last five minutes, with hooker Daryl Clark burrowing his way over from close range before Ashton collected Patton’s kick for his second try.
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