DEFEAT rarely felt so good.
Friday may not have provided the win Wolves fans desperately wanted, but it was hard to walk away from Headingley without feeling slightly relieved.
It is a reflection of just how dire Wolves were on the opening week of the season that a loss against a title rival can be met with anything other than dejection.
But such was the malaise following the hammering in round one that even defeat felt like a step in the right direction.
The pack held their own in the face of the phenomenal Jamie Peacock –who made a remarkable 60 tackles– and his forwards, making more metres and setting a platform for Gareth O’Brien to make a mark at stand-off.
Anthony England seemed to relish the opportunity to get stuck in on his Super League debut, searching for any chance to rattle Leeds’ cage with a big hit.
In turn Wolves’ backs, led by O’Brien and Richie Myler, were given more opportunity.
Fans were calling for O’Brien to be included in the starting line-up after he had offered some direction in the latter stages of the defeat to Saints, and Tony Smith granted their wish.
There is little doubt that Wolves were more structured with the ball than they were a week earlier, but it was still far from a classic attacking performance.
A phenomenal Ben Westwood drive and a fine kick to the consistently brilliant Joel Monaghan aside, Wolves did not seem capable of breaking down Leeds, despite ample opportunity.
Wolves’ other debutant, Gene Ormsby, had a mixed night.
Apart from a basic error when he carried a kick into touch, the 21-year-old winger made some strong carries and was not overwhelmed by Leeds’ combo of Kallum Watkins and Tom Briscoe.
Chris Riley will not be certain of getting his place back right away.
On the evidence of the last few weeks, both Richie Myler and Ryan Atkins could also be in danger of losing their places.
Neither looked sharp on Friday and while Myler is perhaps safer considering the limited competition, Atkins has a few breathing down his neck ahead of Hull FC’s visit on Sunday.
It is the first time since Tony Smith’s arrival in 2009 that Warrington Wolves have lost both of their opening two games of the season.
Both Anthony England and Gene Ormsby made their Super League debuts in the loss to Leeds Rhinos.
Warrington Wolves have not won at Headingley since the 42-6 demolition in May 2011.
Joel Monaghan scored tries in all three of the Wolves' 2013 meetings with Hull FC, two in the first and one in each of the following two games.
Chris Bridge is two tries away from celebrating a career century of touchdowns.
Super League Round 2
Friday, February 21, 2014
Leeds: Zak Hardaker; Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall; Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire; Kylie Leuluai, Rob Burrow, Jamie Peacock, Carl Ablett, Brett Delaney, Chris Clarkson. Subs: Paul Aiton, Ryan Bailey, Stevie Ward, Brad Singleton.
Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Joel Monaghan, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Gene Ormsby; Gareth O’Brien, Richie Myler; Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Roy Asotasi, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Ben Evans, Michael Monaghan, Ben Currie, Anthony England.
Scoring: Joel Monaghan try, 10mins, Ratchford goal, 0-6; Hardaker try, 21mins, Sinfield goal, 6-6; Briscoe try, 36mins, Sinfield goal, 12-6; Hardaker try, 57mins, Sinfield goal, 18-6; Westwood try, 76mins, Ratchford goal, 18-12.
Pens: Leeds 8 Wolves 7
Referee: Ben Thaler
Wolves’ Top Man: Ben Westwood
Watch the match