JUSTIN Poore’s Wakefield Wildcats debut lasted just 20 minutes as the club’s marquee signing saw red in a high-tempered Heatshot Festive Challenge defeat against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie.
Rhinos ran out 40-26 winners in an action-packed contest that was anything but a ‘friendly’ match, with four sin-binnings - three for the hosts and another for Wakefield - and Poore’s dismissal nullifying any festive cheer between the West Yorkshire rivals in their first matches of the pre-season.
Poore, Wakefield’s former State of Origin star, looked fired up from the start and gave away a penalty for a high tackle early on before throwing a punch at opposite forward Ryan Bailey minutes later, an action that sparked a brawl involving all 26 players on the pitch.
The Australian prop saw red and Wildcats winger Ben Cockayne was also sent to the sin-bin along with Bailey and Leeds teammate Mitch Achurch, giving the champions a numerical advantage for the rest of the match.
Brian McDermott’s men, playing a competitive match for the first time since their Super League Grand Final win and on their new £1 million pitch, took the lead early on when winger Joe Vickery, looking to impress on trial, crossed the line and Paul McShane kicked his first conversion.
Wildcats hit back through a try from skipper Danny Kirmond and minutes later Reece Lyne, who enjoyed a better debut than Poore, capitalised on an error from inexperienced Rhinos full-back Jimmy Watson to give Wakefield the lead. Paul Sykes converted both.
Brad Singleton added the first of his two tries but the first half ended all square at 16-16 when Ben Cockayne squeezed over the line in the corner from a Lyne pass.
Wildcats could not take their momentum into the second half, however, and Rhinos came flying out of the traps with tries for youngsters Jimmy Watson and Jamel Chisholm to give the hosts a ten-point cushion.
Dean Collis and Richie Mathers kept the visitors in it with tries but Joel Moon crossed the whitewash on his debut and Singleton completed the scoring with his second of the match to seal the win for Leeds.
Rhinos: Watson, Chisholm, Keinhorst, Moon, Vickery, McGuire, McShane, Singleton, Hood, Bailey, Achurch, Kirke, Briscoe. Subs: Foster, Sutcliffe, Baldwinson, Duckworth, Tonks, White.
Wildcats: Mathers, Fox, Collis, Lyne, Cockayne, Sykes, Smith, Poore, Aiton, Trout, Lauitiiti, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs: Wildie, Cowling, Walshaw, Slater, Healy, Goulding.
Referee: Jamie Leahy.
See this week’s Wakefield Express for full match report, reaction and pictures.