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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Warrington Wolves 37 Leeds Rhinos 18
FOR the consumate professional Tony Smith, this match was actually something of a disappointment.
Not due to the result, obviously, but because his side let the champions back into the match having completely dominated them for 40 breathtaking minutes.
His reaction when Lee Briers kicked the drop goal that put Wolves four tries clear was of anger, not satisfaction, as he was convinced that his side should never have needed to make sure of the game in that way.
There were more than a few signs of frustration that they had once again let a dominant position slip away, though Wolves were never in danger of reliving the painful drama that had unfolded at Craven Park a week earlier.
It just shows that Warrington are still some way from putting in an ‘80-minute performance’, because if they had continued in the same vein after the break as they had before it, Leeds would have once again been at the wrong end of a 50-point scoreline.
Still, there would have been about 10,000 others in the stadium who would have walked away from the game absolutely delighted, and it would be hard to blame them.
It was without doubt one of Wolves’ finest performances in wet conditions for some time, with the opening 30-minute spell being as close to perfect as anyone could of hoped for in the circumstances.
Leeds may have been far from their best, but even a Rhinos team in their pomp would have struggled to contain Wolves’ attacking prowess in the first half hour.
Gareth O’Brien rightly enjoyed much of the fanfare after the game, with two well-taken tries included in an excellent all-round performance, but Lee Briers was the architect-in-chief.
There is little I can add to the praise heaped on him by so many others during his career, but all the facets to his play that make him such a joy to watch were in full swing.
Sign him up for another year!
The forwards were also on top form, with the starting front row of Chris Hill, Micky Higham and Garreth Carvell making their Leeds counterparts look ordinary by comparison.
Lee Briers kicked his 1,000th goal for Warrington against Leeds. His total is made up of 930 place kicks (conversions and penalties) and a club record 70 drop goals.
Mike Cooper’s substitute performance against Leeds was his 100th career appearance. He has played 93 games for Warrington, six for Castleford in a 2010 loan spell and one for England Knights against France in 2011.
Wolves have three players in the top seven of Super League’s top try chart. Ryan Atkins is second to Wigan’s Josh Charnley with 16, with Chris Riley also on 16 and Joel Monaghan is joint seventh with Leeds’ Ryan Hall and Hull KR's Kris Welham on 13.
Hooker Micky Higham needs three tries for his career century from all club and international appearances.
Lee Briers needs three more tries for 150 in all Wolves matches, and is 10 goals away from reaching 1,000 in his club and international career.
Round 17: June 8, 2012
Warrington Wolves...37 Leeds Rhinos...18
Brett Hodgson; Chris Bridge, Joel Monaghan, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Gareth O’Brien; Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Garreth Carvell, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Ben Harrison. Subs: Adrian Morley, Simon Grix, Mike Cooper, Stefan Ratchford.
Brent Webb; Ben Jones-Bishop, Carl Ablett, Zak Hardaker, Ryan Hall; Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow; Kylie Leuluai, Shaun Lunt, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey. Subs: Stevie Ward, Darrell Griffin, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson.
Waterhouse try, 2mins, Hodgson goal, 6-0; Riley try, 4mins, Hodgson goal, 12-0; O'Brien try, 11mins, Hodgson goal, 18-0; O'Brien try, 18mins, Hodgson goal, 24-0; Riley try, 28mins, Hodgson goal, 30-0; Sinfield try, 34mins, Sinfield goal, 30-6; Burrow try, 46mins, Sinfield goal, 30-12; Briers drop goal, 65mins, 31-12; Burrow try, 68mins, Sinfield goal, 31-18; Atkins try, 71mins, O'Brien goal, 37-18.
Wolves 6 Leeds 5