‘A MASSIVE improvement’ was Tony Smith’s verdict on Warrington Wolves’ performance during their 18-12 defeat to Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Stadium.
Admittedly Wolves would have been hard pressed not to improve on their dismal opening week loss to St Helens, but Smith was happy that his side were getting towards where they need to be at this early stage in the season.
“It was a massive improvement, a lot better this week so I am pleased with that,” he said.
“A lot of areas that we worked on were a whole lot better.
“I thought our defence, which was tested a fair bit in that opening half, was better.
“Our field position perhaps cost us a try, when Tom Briscoe had to come up with something pretty special to break the line, but aside from that our defence in the first half was terrific.”
Wolves looked to have banished last week’s nightmare when taking a 6-0 lead through Joel Monaghan’s try early on, but Leeds went on to dominate the opening half.
The hosts carried a deserved 12-6 lead into the break thanks to tries from the impressive Zak Hardaker and Tom Briscoe, a lead that was stretched to 18-6 when Hardaker pounced for a second time 10 minutes into the second half.
Wolves did manage to regain a foothold in an improved second-half showing, but failed to make the most of their sustained pressure until Ben Westwood crossed for the game’s final score three minutes from time.
For Smith, it was Leeds’ line defence that perhaps proved the difference on the night.
“Leeds’ defence in the second half probably ended up winning the game for them,” he said.
“Their goal-line defence was their saviour tonight I think, but we were massively improved from last week.”
Despite looking second best, Wolves will perhaps bemoan missing out on a point after chances to take the game level went begging.
Stefan Ratchford should have reached the line on 50 minutes but paid for a cut back inside as Hardaker made a terrific covering tackle to keep him out.
Late drives to the line for Gareth O’Brien, Michael Monaghan and Roy Asotasi could not quite earn Wolves a draw, but Smith admitted that the result was probably a fair one.
“We certainly had opportunities to get a draw,” he said.
‘There were chances at the end there, but I have to say that Leeds were better than us tonight, but only by a little bit.
“Had Stef read that chance a little differently, for example, it could have been different but they are the chances that can turn a game.
“That’s how fine a line it can be.
“I was really pleased with our forwards, though, they were very good and we had no problem getting up the field this week.
“Some of our combinations need to improve, we probably weren’t at our best at the edges.
“But overall, I’m fairly pleased.”