Alongside the Men’s and Women’s teams, Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair also welcomed their counterparts from Wigan Warriors this weekend and they completed a clean sweep over the Cherry and Whites with a superb 62-40 victory at Leeds Beckett University.
With only one score separating the top two sides in the Wheelchair Super League at the break, a blistering second half performance by the Rhinos including five tries for England captain Tom Halliwell saw them pull clear and wrap up a huge victory in their quest to retain the title.
The action started right from the first whistle when the home side opened the scoring with a try right down the middle through Ewan Clibbens, but Wigan struck back immediately and Declan Roberts was able to cross for two tries in quick succession putting them 12-6 ahead.
Taking further advantage, Matt Wooloff was next to touchdown for the Warriors, and with Roberts again successful from the tee, the Wigan lead was extended to 18-6.
Having now fallen well behind, the Rhinos regrouped and came back with a vengeance. A flurry of scores by Nathan Collins, Jodie-Ann Boyd-Ward and James Simpson put Leeds back in the lead as they began to find their groove and increase the tempo of play.
However, showing why they are vying for top spot and very much likely to be the Rhinos biggest challengers in the Play-offs, visitors Wigan made it all square again when Declan Roberts completed his hat-trick. The successful conversion tied the scores at 24-all midway through the half.
It was becoming a real see-saw battle, and it was the turn of the Rhinos to score next, with Jodie-Ann Boyd-Ward grabbing her second before some some great passing play was rewarded with a try for Josh Butler who flew past the defence to touch down.
There was still time before the break for Wigan to reduce the arrears once more, and an unconverted try by Martin Norris was enough to keep Wigan within just one converted try as the teams went into half time with the Rhinos up 34-28.
Similar to the encounter between the two sides earlier in the season, the lead was changing hands constantly with each team bringing the scores level whenever they had the ball in hand. A second try for Wigan’s Norris, and a kick from Declan Roberts soon after the restart was enough to tie the scores once more at 34-34.
But then came the Tom Halliwell show, with a truly unbelievable sequence of scoring from the 22-year-old seeing him not only complete a second half hat-trick in just over 10 minutes, but also go on to add a fourth and fifth once Declan Roberts had scored his fourth try of the afternoon. It wasn’t just with ball in hand where the Rhinos were showing their class either, with the defensive efforts of Verity Smith and player-coach James Simpson playing a hugely important role in wrapping up a vital win over the Warriors.
Leeds Rhinos: Nathan Collins, James Simpson, Ewan Clibbens, Tom Halliwell, Jodie Boyd-Ward
Interchanges: Josh Butler, Paul Horrobin, Verity Smith
Tries: Tom Halliwell (5), Jodie-Ann Boyd-Ward (2), James Simpson, Josh Butler, Ewan Clibbens, Nathan Collins
Goals: Collins 9/11
Wigan Warriors: Martin Norris, Declan Roberts, Adam Rigby, Phil Roberts, Matt Wooloff
Interchanges: Nathan Roberts, Mark Williams
Tries: D.Roberts (4), Wooloff, Norris (2)
Goals: D.Roberts 6/6, P.Roberts 0/1
Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair are back in action next Sunday 31st July playing their final home game of the regular season against Halifax Panthers at The Edge, University of Leeds (kick off 10:30am).
If you or someone you know would be interested in playing Wheelchair Rugby League with the Rhinos, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.