THE first team may be struggling at the moment, but Warrington Wolves’ academy team continue to fly.

And on Saturday afternoon, they picked up what was arguably the biggest result of their season so far.

Welcoming Leeds Rhinos – the defending Academy champions and the kind of powerhouse club at under 18s level Wire aspire to be – to the big stage of The Halliwell Jones Stadium was a chance for Danny Evans’ talented group of youngsters to provide some much-needed positivity.

> AS IT HAPPENED: Wire beat Leeds in dramatic academy clash

Warrington Guardian: Celebrations after Pat Irwin's tryCelebrations after Pat Irwin's try (Image: Mike Boden)

In a game that finished in dramatic style, they were able to hold on for their fifth victory in succession.

Riley Lumb’s 79th-minute try looked as though it had earned the Rhinos a share of the spoils as the visitors finally broke through following an intense period of pressure, but Jack Sinfield’s conversion slide wide and the only kick at goal missed by either side proved pivotal.

It allowed Warrington to hold off an admirable fightback from the visitors after Nolan Tupaea’s second-half brace had put them in command.

Both times, the second rower had hit superb lines to muscle his way over – full-back Cai Taylor-Wray picked him out as the lead runner for his first before he later profited from an excellent bullet pass from Noah Booth.

Warrington Guardian: Nolan Tupaea touches downNolan Tupaea touches down (Image: Mike Boden)

Tupaea’s second try had put Wire 30-18 up and in a seemingly comfortable position, but Leeds showed exactly why they are such a force at this level by fighting back, with giant winger Neil Tchamambe touching down before Lumb’s late score.

They were aided in their quest by a 22-11 penalty count in their favour, heavily influenced by a new rule being trialled in the academy competition where tackles above the armpit are penalised.

Clearly, it is a rule that needs refining if it is to be rolled out across the wider game because in its current iteration, it prevents matches from getting any flow to them.

Still, Leeds had been given a mountain to climb by a Warrington side that combined some strong running through the middle with crisp ball movement.

That was epitomised by Lucas Green, returning to his role as academy team skipper following his senior experience and he showed exactly why he has been elevated.

Whether it was consistently punching holes in the Rhinos defence or creating for others with deft handling, it was an excellent display at loose forward from the 18-year-old which included a try assist – his superb offload led to stand-off Pat Irwin wriggling over in the first half.

Warrington Guardian: Lucas Green returned from first-team duty to captain the academy sideLucas Green returned from first-team duty to captain the academy side (Image: Mike Boden)

The supporters who turned up will have been aware of what to expect from Green, but they also saw several other youngsters of extreme promise.

There is much excitement within the club about Tupaea, livewire full-back Taylor-Wray and athletic centre Arron Lindop but the likes of winger Jake Thewlis – younger brother of Josh – and prop Joe Bajer also caught the eye here.

The latter three of those linked up for a try in the first half – lively ball movement led to Taylor-Wray sending Lindop through a gap on the left edge and he had the presence of mind to shuffle the ball on for Thewlis to dot down.

Ben Hartill’s dive over from dummy-half was either side of scores from Harrison Gilmore and Freddie Brennan-Jones as Leeds started well, but Irwin levelled matters and once Thewlis had touched down, Wire were never behind.

With four games left – the next being another testing trip to Wigan Warriors on July 14 in the curtain-raiser to the Super League outing between the two – Evans’ side are in a strong position to at least replicate their play-off finish from last year, but their stated aim is to go one better and reach the Grand Final.

But beyond that, the team’s primary function is to provide a regular supply of first-team ready young players.

That is starting to become more frequent, and there appears to be a good chance of several more emerging from this current crop.

Wolves: Cai Taylor-Wray; Dylon Braddish, Zack Gardner, Arron Lindop, Jake Thewlis; Pat Irwin, Noah Booth; Logan Raughter, Ben Hartill, Joe Bajer, Isaac Reid, Nolan Tupaea, Lucas Green. Subs: Lewis Barratt, Ben Godwin, Alfie Mather, Sam Marshall