Chester’s ‘cats are all smiles over Easter

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats piled the misery on struggling Leeds Rhinos, defeating the champions by 20 points to 16 at their Headingley home. Chris Chester has stopped the rot since taking the reins at Belle Vue earlier in March.

Since his appointment, the former Hull KR boss has presided over two wins in three games and is proud of his players’ application. Their change of attitude is largely responsible for their change in fortunes:

“I think it’s the first time this club has won two games over Easter so I’m really proud of everybody” Chester said after the Leeds win.

“We showed a lot of character and resilience in the second half. We found a way to win the game.”

Finn settling in at Trinity

Liam Finn is finding his feet at the Wildcats. Along with Jacob Miller, the Trinity halfbacks have fired their side to two consecutive wins under Chester, and a clean sweep over Easter for the first time in a long time.

A deft drop-off from Finn put Matty Ashurst through to score under the posts. After the Rhinos levelled through a scrappy Joel Moon score, Finn was again on hand to stroke a penalty over to put the Wildcats 8-6 up. Strong running from Australian stand-off Jacob Miller extended Wakefield’s lead, with his fellow halfback adding the extras in an accomplished performance from the tee.

It’s no coincidence that while the Wildcats are rejuvenated under Chris Chester, the dynamism discovered by their halves is what’s transferring this new-found energy onto the pitch.

Leeds losing it late

The Rhinos were undone by a late try on Thursday night at Cas. On Easter Monday they were scuppered by Craig Hall’s 80 metre dash. Reminiscent of Leeds legend Ryan Hall’s World Club wonder-try in 2012, namesake Craig broke Rhinos’ hearts as he tore down the main stand touchline to secure the win for the Wildcats.

As was the case at the Jungle in their previous fixture, Leeds had carved out a narrow lead over their opponents and were chasing a decisive score to kill the game off. After Tom Briscoe touched down, the Rhinos maintained their charge against their West Yorkshire rivals with only desperate defending from Tom Johnstone denying Zak Hardaker and Jamie Jones-Buchanan in quick succession. Mitch Achurch finally broke through to put Leeds ahead, only for the flawless Finn to equalise courtesy of a penalty.

With five minutes to go, as Leeds chased the game, Hall made his move and scored a fine try. Brian McDermott must surely be concerned at his side’s new-found inability to close out a game. Leeds late late shows are nightmare viewing for the Rhinos and their supporters.

Rhinos to re-define objectives

After their treble-winning season, it’s difficult to see what clear objectives Leeds set themselves at the beginning of this campaign. A consecutive clean sweep is unheard of, not to mention colossally unlikely given the champions’ dismal run of form.

Brian McDermott has recruited well and has a number of talented young players to choose from. What he doesn’t have is the leadership of Peacock and Sinfield. Developing these on-field generals takes time. Members of the current squad need to stand up and be counted. Prospects and prodigies need to grow into themselves, just as the team needs to find itself collectively.

Time is what Leeds need above all else. Time to find themselves again, and time to build for the future. Success will come, but the club and its fans need to adjust their expectations in terms of what this will look like because time is the one thing they don’t have.

FINAL SCORE

Leeds Rhinos (6) 16

Tries: Moon, Briscoe, Achurch
Goals: Sutcliffe 2

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats (8) 20

Tries: Ashurst, Miller, Hall
Goals: Finn 4