Leeds Rhinos 6 Wakefield Trinity 30: Max Jowitt treble sets up stunning Trinity win
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Despite losing their first 10 games after lockdown ended, his Wakefield Trinity have now won their next three in just eight days, including this fine effort against Challenge Cup victors Leeds Rhinos.
Max Jowitt’s first half hat-trick set the tone at St Helens. Roll on Sunday and the re-match at Belle Vue.
There has been much talk about Super League ending the regular campaign early after this weekend - a decision should be reached on Monday - and instead operating an extended play-off system.
Ahead of this fixture, Chester voiced his displeasure at that prospect saying his side - at times so badly affected by Covid-related issues - wanted to push on and complete matters even though they have no chance of reaching the play-offs, whatever their make-up.
They remain down in 10th spot but look a re-born side over this past week.
A controversial national newspaper report saying Chester was facing a player revolt seems to have been the catalyst for the turn in form; they have won every game since and, in the process, severely dented Leeds’ own top-four hopes.
“It’s amazing what one win does to the group’s confidence," said Chester.
"You saw that tonight with the free-flowing rugby. The performance was full of energy straight from the kick-off and to concede only six points is really pleasing.
“The frustrating thing is the season’s kind of gone now - and we are coming up with our best footy.”
Resurgent Trinity were 20-0 up after full-back Jowitt completed his hat-trick with the final play of the first half and there could be few complaints from Leeds who, admittedly, have their own issues.
Rhinos had to stand down four players who featured in Monday night’s win over Castleford Tigers due to track and trace after their opponents reported 13 positive Covid tests.
Leeds, in the middle of a hectic schedule after their Wembley success, did not name those involved.
However, there were five changes to the side that played Monday - Lance Todd Trophy winner Richie Myler, Tom Briscoe, ‘marquee’ centre Konrad Hurrell, Australian prop Matt Prior and James Donaldson all dropping out.
Whoever had played, though, they would have done well to overcome Chester’s side in this form.
They were strong, purposeful and relatively clinical throughout the first period, the polar opposite of their rivals who failed to build any sort of pressure until a second half they dominated only to muster a solitary try.
Luke Gale, the Leeds captain, rarely puts a foot wrong but he could hardly put one right in the first period tonight.
The England scrum-half kicked out on the full, then rolled his next kick dead to concede a seven-tackle set before ushering a forward pass to Ava Seumanufagi.
From that error, in the next set, Reece Lyne also got on the outside of Gale to unleash winger Innes Senior who sped down the right flank before furnishing full-back Jowitt with his 12th minute opener.
It was the least his side deserved; they had defended their own line well after conceding a goalline drop-out in the very first set and, with Kelepi Tanginoa and James Batchelor continually running great lines, always had an outlet going forward.
When Jacob Miller forced another error from Gale, pressuring the Leeds player into a rushed kick that simply hit the ground, they struck again.
Miller’s fine pass gave Tom Johnstone space to run into down the left flank and he just had enough pace to get past Alex Sutcliffe before Jowitt, typically, arrived in support.
Kyle Wood almost burrowed over for another after Batchelor had charged close and beleaguered Leeds could not cope with their opponents’ sustained quality.
Joe Westerman - another workhorse in the Trinity pack - produced an offload out of the tackle to give Dave Fifita the chance to work up a head of steam.
The Australian prop looked like a slow-moving pinball as he twice bounced off Kruise Leeming and Gale with his big fend, ticoheting his way to the line.
Next, Eddie Battye was held up between the posts but Jowitt was able to barge over through some tired defence to complete his treble.
For all Leeds looked jaded after their recent exploits, a dozen of the Trinity side have played all three games in their own packed recent schedule, illustrating the resolve and resilience they are showing.
The other side of their game - a new-found defensive steel - was on display in the second half when Rhinos did finally find some rhythm.
Time and again Wakefield repelled their opponents.
Brett Ferres did breach them once but passed forward to Cameron Smith when he could have fallen over the line himself.
More fine cover defence saw Ash Handley smuggled into touch and Rich Agar’s side did not manage to score until the winger touched down in the 62nd minute after Liam Sutcliffe had found some rare space.
Alex Mellor was held up by solid defence, though, and the Leeds back-row was sin-binned for a late tackle on Ryan Hampshire in the 68th minute.
That saw Innes Senior score the first of his late try double as Trinity deservedly finished with a flourish.
Rhinos coach Richard Agar said: “We aren’t going to sulk too much, we have got a positive group of people. We know where we’ve gone wrong and we’ve just got to get yourselves up for it at the weekend.”
Leeds Rhinos: Walker; L Briscoe, A Sutcliffe, L Sutcliffe, Handley; Lui, Gale; Seumanufagi, Leeming, Oledzki, Mellor, Martin, Thompson. Substitutes: Dwyer, Smith, Ferres, Holroyd.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt; Senior, Lyne, Tupou, Johnstone; Miller, Hampshire; Fifita, Crowther, Arona, Batchelor, Tanginoa, Westerman. Substitutes: K Wood, Tangata, Battye, B Walker.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)