“Magic Weekend” was certainly that for our cup-winning Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair side as their winning streak was extended with a thrilling 48-46 victory in Manchester.
It was another intense meeting with West Yorkshire counterparts Halifax Panthers, who remain the only side to defeat the Rhinos this season following their derby day triumph back in May.
Leading by 20 points inside the final 10 minutes of the match, Halifax almost pulled off an incredible comeback but fell just one score short as James Simpson’s men held on for a priceless two points which also sent them top of the Wheelchair Super League table.
The Rhinos, still recovering from their momentous efforts over the last few weeks for both club and country, certainly had to dig deep and find their inner reserves to come away with the win; lessons being learnt about how important good recovery will need to be, for our international players, during the Rugby League World Cup later this year.
In what was the final match of Wheelchair’s Magic Weekend, a 5pm kick-off saw Halifax start strong with a quick brace of tries from Nathan Holmes. Leeds fought back swiftly and took the lead with a lot of the possession and a superb kicking game which the side have become known for; doubles from Tom Halliwell, Josh Butler and a solitary Nathan Collins try putting them into a first half lead.
There was also a strong showing once again from Jodie-Ann Boyd-Ward, who made some strong tackles and was able to get over for a first half score of her own.
After the sides had traded tries through their England internationals Rob Hawkins (Halifax) and Josh Butler (Leeds), the Rhinos took full command of the game, with Butler completing his hat-trick, before adding a fourth just moments later following a beautiful flowing move involving Halliwell and Simpson. Once England captain Halliwell had added his third try of the afternoon with a lovely show and go, the Rhinos were sitting pretty with a 20 point lead.
A Halifax try from Frenchman Jeremy Bousson was quickly cancelled out by another for Boyd-Ward in the corner, but the Panthers had regained that taste of scoring and raced up the comeback trail with Hawkins crossing for his second and third tries of the afternoon, marking another impressive individual performance for the England star.
With Leeds now on the ropes, Bousson powered over to cut the lead to just 2 points following the conversion, but the Rhinos refused to be toppled and hung out with an almighty defensive effort in the final set to claim a monumental team victory.
Having done it tough, Player-Coach James Simpson was just relieved that has side found the resolve to hold onto their lead and secure victory.
“It wasn’t a pretty win but I’m really proud of the team finding a win to get in done in the end,” said Simpson. “There’s definitely a few players carrying injuries and niggles from the Challenge Cup Final, along with a bit of the famous post cup final dip playing it’s part too.
“It’s tricky when you have to have a perfect game mid season to then back that up energy, effort and focus wise. Our aim now to is dial it back a bit and slowly build back up to that form, ahead of another top-of-the-table clash against Wigan in two weeks time.”