By Steve Phillips
The final game of the season was a home fixture at the Asics Stadium, Victoria Park. As has been the trend over the last few matches Warrington had a large contingent of under 15s in the side and while they went toe-to-toe with Leeds in the first half, Leeds pushed on in the second half to run out clear winners. Warrington’s tries came from Denive Balmforth, Luke Broadbent and Thomas Whitehead with Reece Briers kicking two and Luke the final conversion.
It was Warrington who started the stronger and ensured they scored the first try after only a couple of minutes. Leeds were penalised for a forward pass 30 metres out from their own try line giving Wire head and feed at the scrum. A couple of strong drives up the middle laid the platform. Balmforth swung the ball to the left side with Briers, Broadbent, Thomas Burnett and Evan Foster linking up to mount the first attack. From the play-the-ball, Ashley Barnes drove hard towards the line, being stopped eight metres out. Balmforth took his chance from dummy half and exploited the hole behind the markers grounding the ball before the full back could get underneath it. Briers was able to convert and Warrington had taken full advantage of Leeds mistake.
It was Wire again that ensured they capitalised on some good skill to go over again in the ninth minute. Warrington had worked their way from deep and Whitehead kicked high on the last. The Leeds’ defence didn’t quite have the flight of the ball and while they recovered it, Callum Woolfenden was already there to apply pressure and with a one-on-one steal put the Wire on the attack again. Leeds were still running back and stacked their right side expecting another strike as per the previous score; however Balmforth was alive to this and played the ball to Warrington’s right side. Callum Newton took the pass from Whitehead and attracted two of three Leeds defenders. A little off-load to Broadbent, who had come into the attack from full back, gave him the space to go over unopposed. Briers was again on target and Warrington were 12-0.
Of course no-one expected Leeds to roll over and they came straight back scoring two tries of their own to level the game up. The first on 16 minutes was scored by Levi Edwards who proved a thorn in Warrington’s side all match and the second came from Joseph Gibbons after Leeds were awarded a penalty only a few metres out from the line.
It was Warrington however that went into the break with the lead. Warrington were given a penalty for a Leeds forward pass and then were called off-side by the referee giving Warrington great field position only 20 metres out. Warrington attacked the line but it didn’t look particularly co-ordinated and on the last it looked as if the attack was going to amount to nothing. However, Whitehead collected the ball as first receiver put in a little grubber kick; he followed up the kick, which evaded the first defender and bounced up kindly into his arms. A spin in the tackle took him over the line directly under the posts to score. Broadbent was kicking with Briers off the pitch and it was no problem to add the extras. This brought the half-time score to 18-12 to the home side.
The second half unfortunately for the young Wire team didn’t go to plan; while they had a number of good opportunities to score they weren’t able to either find the final pass or build enough pressure on the Leeds’ defence and weren’t able to add to their first-half score.
Leeds, growing in confidence and using their additional experience, had soon drawn level through Nathan Copley and went into the lead in the 53rd minute through William Gatus. Oliver Field added their next try a few minutes later, with Mackenize Turner converting two out of the three. Warrington were able to stem the tide and got back into the arm wrestle again. However, a try in the last minute under the posts from Morgan Gannon and again converted by Turner meant an 18-34 victory to Leeds Rhinos.
Broadbent, Luke; Foster, Evan; Burnett, Thomas; Newton, Callum; Williams-Reed, Macawley; Whitehead, Thomas; Briers, Reece; Thomas, Luke; Balmforth, Denive; Rennox, Kieran; Woolfenden, Callum; Barnes, Ashley; Staveley, Nicholas
Mills, David; Reddecliff, Jamie; Simpson, Oliver; Bancroft, Charlie; Brown, Joshua; Hayes, Leon; Darbyshire, Jack
Tries: Balmforth, Broadbent, Whitehead
Goals: Briers (2/2), Broadbent (1/1)
Little, Samuel; Turner, Mackenzie; Simpson, Max; Nichol, Coby; Gatus, William; Field, Oliver; Parsons, Jonah; Atkinson, Luca; Aldridge, Bailey; Hird, Joseph; Gannon, Morgan; Gibbons, Joseph; Nicholson-Watton, Thomas
Glancy, Caine; Wallace, Ajahni; Edwards, Levi; Spear, Ethan; Copley, Nathan; Stones, Jake; Patefield, Archie
Tries: Edwards, Gibbons, Copley, Gatus, Field, Gannon
Goals: Turner (5/6)
“ I was fairly happy with a committed first half. I thought we kicked and defended with purpose and scored some decent tries. In the second, I felt our kicking game wasn’t as effective which meant that their bigger Leeds players started to receive the ball in better positions and so started to roll us. We couldn’t maintain our defensive effort the way that we did in the first and that will be a big focus area for us over the pre-season. It was another good learning experience for the young players. All have had valuable game time in playing at this level and we are in a good place for next season.”