Wakefield Trinity 18 Leeds Rhinos 20 - Close-call Super League victory deserved by gutsy visitors

AN INCREDIBLY gutsy effort earned Leeds Rhinos a 20-18 win over Wakefield Trinity, but both teams deserve massive credit for putting on a show in the toughest of circumstances.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 1st November 2020, 8:32 pm
Liam Sutcliffe dives over for one of four Leeds Rhinos tries in the win at Wakefield Trinity. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.
Liam Sutcliffe dives over for one of four Leeds Rhinos tries in the win at Wakefield Trinity. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

It was Leeds’ fourth game in 10 days, three days after they had been thumped 30-6 by the same opposition.

Trinity were playing their fourth game in 11 days and seemed set to take control at one stage in the first half.

They will feel it was an opportunity missed, but Leeds just about deserved their victory, having scored four tries to three.

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Try time for Trinity's Innes Senior. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

Both teams led in the first half, but Rhinos hit back from 12-6 down to lead 14-12 at the break.

Trinity regained the advantage early in the second period, but Leeds went back in front with 11 minutes left and hung on gamely.

Quality-wise, it wasn’t a great game. There were numerous errors and penalties, but the effort from both teams was outstanding and it was good entertainment.

It was obvious, though some fresh-ish bodies were drafted in on each side, that many of the players were ‘running on fumes’.

Trinity's Lee Kershaw is stopped by the resolute Rhinos defence. 1 Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

Even so, the game was played at a good intensity, with the result in the balance all the way through.

There were some strong individual performances and moments of quality, particularly in defence.

Joe Westerman had a big influence for Trinity, along with ex-Leeds winger Ben Jones-Bishop, debutant hooker Harry Bowes and full-back Alex Walker, before he took a late knock.

Rhinos stand-off Rob Lui was showing obvious signs of wear and tear and failed a head injury assessment in the first half.

Half-back Callum McLelland gets Leeds moving forward against Wakefield. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

That left Callum McLelland as Rhinos’ only specialist half. His kicking game needs to be better, but he worked hard. With Luke Gale ruled out, Ash Handley was captain for the day and had a big game on Leeds’ left flank, where he was helped considerably by the contribution of Bodene Thompson who has proved a very good addition since his move from Toronto Wolfpack on a short-term deal.

From the team on duty three days earlier, Rhinos were without Alex Sutcliffe, Gale, Alex Mellor, Cameron Smith and Brett Ferres, along with Tom Holroyd who needs surgery on a wrist and will not play again this year.

Mikolaj Oledzki, Brad Dwyer, and Thompson all played their fourth game in 10 days. Considering he was suffering from coronavirus not long ago, Dwyer’s resilience has been astonishing and it was fitting he scored the winning try.

Trinity haven’t had it any easier. It was their fourth fixture in 11 days and they had Ryan Hampshire, Kyle Wood, Kelepi Tanginoa, David Fifita and Eddie Battye backing up from the previous three, while Thursday’s hat-trick hero Max Jowitt dropped out, along with Reece Lyne, Bill Tuopu, Tom Johnstone, Jordan Crowther, James Batchelor, Adam Tangata and Brad Walker.

Rhinos made a good start with Hadley crossing off a break and pass by Liam Sutcliffe, who also converted.

They were pressing again when Jack Walker’s pass was intercepted by Lee Kershaw, who juggled before running the length of the field.

Hampshire added the extras and converted again when his fine pass sent Westerman through a gap to make it 12-6 after 17 minutes.

That came after a penalty and couple of repeat sets and Leeds were back under the cosh when Walker’s restart went out on the full and Trinity forced another drop out.

They looked odds-on to score, but a pass from Hampshire went to ground and Handley picked up to counter.

Jones-Bishop did really well to chase him down, but could not complete the tackle and Handley regained his feet before passing - via a touch by Innes Senior, to Sutcliffe who went over.

Jones-Bishop’s chase, though, had forced Handley wide and the conversion was missed.

It was nip and tuck after that. Rhinos’ Walker got under his Trinity namesake to prevent him getting the ball down, then Jones-Bishop cut out Thompson’s pass to Leeds’ left, saving a try.

Seconds later, the winger found a gap from Westerman’s pass and made it into Leeds’ half. Under pressure from McLelland he got a pass away but, agonisingly for Trinity, Jack Croft could not hold on.

Rhinos, though, finished the half on top thanks to a second try by Handley after McLelland, Thompson and Sutcliffe had handled across the line.

Alex Walker made an important contribution at the start of the second half when he got under Jarrod O’Connor over Rhinos’ line.

Bowes gave a good account of himself and eight minutes after the break seemed to have scored a debut try from some quick thinking out of acting-half, but - though he looked to be over the line - referee Marcus Griffiths said he was tackled short.

But then Hampshire kicked to Wakefield’s left and Senior made a fine catch to touch down. Hampshire added the extras to make it 18-14. Leeds lost Kruise Leeming to a head knock in the fourth quarter which led to Dwyer, who started, being reintroduced.

With 12 minutes left he threw and dummy and powered over from acting-half to level the scores and Rhyse Martin’s kick nosed Leeds back in front. Three minutes from time, Rhinos were penalised for obstruction close to Trinity’s line and then again for a ball steal.

Wakefield could maybe have done for goal from the latter to send the game into golden point, but opted to try for a winner and Fifita knocked on.

The penalty count was seven-six in Rhinos’ favour.