Super League: Warrington Wolves 12-16 Leeds Rhinos
|Betfred Super League|
|Warrington Wolves (6) 12|
|Tries: Goodwin, Lineham Goals: Goodwin 2|
|Leeds Rhinos (12) 16|
|Tries: Jones-Buchanan, Hall 2 Goals: Watkins 2|
Champions Leeds Rhinos kicked off the 2018 Super League season with a clinical victory at Warrington Wolves.
Leeds were 12-6 up at the break, Bryson Goodwin's debut try keeping Warrington in the contest after early scores from Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ryan Hall.
Having weathered a spell of heavy Wire pressure at the start of the second half, winger Hall's brilliant breakaway touchdown extended the visitors' lead.
Tom Lineham's try gave Leeds a brief late scare, but they held on to win.
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Rhinos, who won their eighth Grand Final last year, were not at their fluent best at the Halliwell Jones Stadium but ruthlessly opened up an early 12-0 lead and then produced a gutsy defensive display to keep Warrington at arm's length.
Hall's second-half score was the highlight - and an early contender for try of the season - with the 30-year-old England international collecting the ball 20m from his own line, beating two tackles and sprinting clear to cross in the corner.
Warrington, led by new coach Steve Price for the first time, did have plenty of possession and territory after falling 16-6 behind but never seriously threatened to mount a comeback.
And they were not helped by the second-half departure of prop Chris Hill after his wife went into labour.
Leeds show their title credentials
Having won the Grand Final in 2015 and seen club legends Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai all retire, Leeds were beaten at home by Warrington on the opening night of the 2016 campaign and went on to finish a disappointing ninth in the table.
Following the departure of long-serving half-back Danny McGuire to Hull KR and the retirement of Rob Burrow after October's title-winning victory over Castleford, there have been question marks over whether the Rhinos would suffer a repeat of that slump this year - but there was little evidence of that here.
Once Jones-Buchanan and Hall had put them ahead inside the opening 20 minutes, they never looked likely to surrender their advantage until the otherwise impressive Jack Walker's error in the final minute momentarily gave the Wire hope.
St Helens forward Jon Wilkin on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra
Warrington's attack faltered, Leeds' defence prevailed. It was a huge effort from the Leeds players in their attentiveness and how they scrambled for each other and Warrington couldn't break them down.
Tom Briscoe and Hall looked dangerous for Leeds every time they carried the ball - and Hall's try on the opening night may even be the best we see all year.
When Lineham scored at the end Warrington just gave themselves a chance, but Leeds were the better side.
Warrington coach Steve Price told BBC Radio 5 live sports extra:
"I thought their back five were the difference between the teams. We gave ourselves a chance, we showed a lot of good signs when it was 16-6.
"As I've said all along, it's going to take a bit of time with some new combinations in key areas. It's a good starting point for us.
"It was unfortunate losing Chris Hill, but it's good for him. I'm not quite sure what's happening, to be honest."
Leeds coach Brian McDermott told BBC Radio 5 live sports extra:
"It was a great start and a great win, but I think there's some improvement to be had in both teams. It's the first game of the season so that's to be expected.
"I think there's going to be a better version of Warrington's attack than that.
"I will give credit to our players for making those tackles, but when we're saving tries and the lead-up has got a bit more quality then I'll get really excited."
Warrington: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, Russell, Brown, Roberts, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Murdoch-Masila.
Interchanges: Westwood, Philbin, King, Patton.
Leeds: Walker, Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall, Moon, Myler, Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney.
Interchanges: Dwyer, Mullally, Peteru, Ormondroyd.
Referee: Phil Bentham.