Super League: Warrington Wolves 19-18 Leeds Rhinos
Warrington Wolves (6) 19
- Higham, Ratchford, Hodgson
- Hodgson 3
Leeds Rhinos (8) 18
- Hall 2, Sutcliffe, Hardaker
A last-minute drop-goal from Lee Briers gave Warrington a dramatic victory over champions Leeds and moved the Wolves up to second in the Super League table.
The injury-hit Rhinos led with Ryan Hall's brace and further tries from Liam Sutcliffe and Zak Hardaker.
Micky Higham, Stefan Ratchford and Brett Hodgson responded for Warrington.
With time running out and the scores level at 18-18, Briers held his nerve to earn a sixth straight Super League win for Tony Smith's Wire.
When the two sides, who met in both major finals last season, it was two tries from England man Hall that helped his side to a 28-22 victory.
He repeated the feat for brave Leeds in a losing cause at the Halliwell Jones Stadium as the Rhinos continued to defy their injury crisis, which worsened with the departures of forwards Mitch Achurch and Brad Singleton before the interval.
The hosts were not without their injury problems, however, losing centre Ryan Atkins during a first half in which Warrington began the stronger.
Leeds were twice penalised for offside in quick succession, allowing Warrington three consecutive sets of six. On the final tackle, hooker Higham showed neat footwork from dummy half to deftly kick the ball into the in-goal area and dive on it for the game's first try.
But there was an instant Leeds reply from winger Hall, who collected an excellent offload from centre Joel Moon to score his 12th Super League try of the season.
Brian McDermott's Rhinos were in front soon afterwards as Ratchford lost the ball deep inside the Leeds half and Sutcliffe, who earlier in the day, ran 80 metres to grab his sixth try in eight appearances.
The Wolves, who were on a run of five straight league wins, had more possession and territory in the first period, but a combination of poor handling and resolute defending kept them at bay.
It was another length-of-the-field effort that stretched the Rhinos' advantage four minutes into the second half, Hall cutting out Chris Bridge's pass and sprinting clear to touch down.
Hardaker's failure to convert any of the first three Leeds tries had kept Warrington within one score, which they found as the versatile Ratchford grounded the ball under pressure from two defenders. Hodgson landed his second goal to level the scores at 12-12.
Having soaked up a huge amount of Wire pressure, the reigning champions went ahead again as Hardaker redeemed himself with a smart try and kick, but Warrington were back on terms within seconds as Joel Monaghan tapped back a Briers kick for Hodgson to score.
Half-back Briers missed two late attempts at what would have been a winning drop-goal, but he made no mistake from 25 metres in the final minute to snatch the victory.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith:
"We found a way to win. We haven't attacked that badly for a long time and we haven't kicked that badly since last year's Grand Final.
"We've actually played a lot better than that and been beaten this year and that's not meant to take anything away from Leeds.
"I thought their effort was enormous. They were probably not at their slickest either but I thought Jamie Peacock had his best game for a long time.
"He was very instrumental in their performance. I've got to say the same about Ben Westwood, he was very, very good for us."
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott:
"I'm an immensely proud man to coach a group of men who can do special things.
"It would have been symbolically a massive win with the line-up we had and, although we're disappointed we've lost, we will take a lot out of tonight's game."
Warrington: Hodgson; C. Riley, Atkins, Grix, J. Monaghan; Briers, Ratchford; Hill, Higham, Wood, Waterhouse, Westwood, Cooper.
Replacements: Morley, Carvell, C. Bridge, Currie.
Leeds: Hardaker; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sutcliffe, Burrow; Moore, McShane, Peacock, Ablett, Clarkson, Singleton.
Replacements: Kirke, Achurch, Keinhorst, Foster.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)