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Friday 5th July 2013, 20:00 - Round:21
|Micky Higham, Stefan Ratchford, Brett Hodgson,||T||Ryan Hall 2, Liam Sutcliffe, Zak Hardaker,|
Brett Hodgson 3,
Attendance: 11,281 Official: B Thaler Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Warrington Wolves snatched a nail-biting victory from tonight's thrill-a-minute Grand Final rematch at the Halliwell Jones Stadium thanks to Lee Briers' last-minute drop goal.
Briers, the most prolific drop-goal kicker in the history of Super League, had missed with two short-range efforts to break the deadlock in the last five minutes but succeeded at the third attempt to break Leeds Rhinos’ hearts.
The injury-hit champions looked to have ended Warrington's five-match winning run after outscoring their hosts by four tries to three but Zak Hardaker, kicking in the absence of Kevin Sinfield, was able to land only one of his four conversion attempts.
England winger Ryan Hall scored two tries, one of them a 100-metre solo effort, and 18-year-old Liam Sutcliffe, deputising at stand-off for the injured Sinfield, celebrated his new four-year contract with his sixth try in eight Super League appearances but it was not enough to hold off Warrington's late onslaught.
Leeds led 8-6 at half-time after taking their chances as Warrington squandered a host of opportunities.
Man of the match Micky Higham put the home side in front after five minutes when he followed up his own delicate grubber kick to touch down and Brett Hodgson kicked the first of his three goals.
Warrington made most of the play but were barely able to complete a full set of tackles before coming up with basic handling errors, with stalwarts Briers and Adrian Morley among the host of culprits.
The Rhinos were always dangerous from long range, with the likes of Hardaker and Kallum Watkins, and they duly took the lead with the aid of two tries in five minutes.
Hall scored the first, helped by a deft one-handed flick pass from his centre Joel Moon, after first creating the position with a break out of his own half.
Young Sutcliffe then went 80 metres to score the second after pouncing on a stray pass from Warrington half-back Stefan Ratchford.
The Wolves held onto the ball long enough to create a series of try-scoring chances but Leeds winger Ben Jones-Bishop made a last-ditch tackle to deny Simon Grix and prop Chris Hill lost the ball short of the line, while Ratchford and Garreth Carvell were both unable to ground the ball when they got over the line.
Both teams experienced blows before half-time, with Warrington centre Ryan Atkins and Leeds forward Mitch Achurch helped off due to leg injuries, and the Rhinos also lost forward Brad Singleton with a hamstring injury.
However, the champions extended their lead two minutes into the second half when Hall intercepted Grix's pass meant for Joel Monaghan to sprint the length of the field to score his second try.
Hardaker was once more off target with the goal and the Wolves drew level on 54 minutes when Ratchford spotted a gap in the Leeds defence and squeezed over from dummy half for his side's second try.
The momentum was clearly with Warrington at that stage but Leeds struck once more on the hour when Hardaker took a return pass from Sutcliffe to go in for a fourth try and this time he added the goal from close to the posts.
But it never looked likely to be the winning score and the match was level once more four minutes later when Monaghan palmed the ball back from Briers' high kick for Hodgson to touch down.
Hodgson's third goal made it 18-18 and, in a frantic finale, it proved to be a case of third-time lucky for Briers.