Super League: Leeds Rhinos beat Warrington Wolves at Headingley
Leeds made it two wins from two in Super League XVIIII with an 18-12 victory over Warrington at Headingley.
Last Updated: 21/02/14 11:10pm
Last year's Grand Finalists Warrington took the lead early on with a try from Joel Monaghan but just as at St Helens last week, they could not capitalise on a fast start as they slumped to a second successive defeat.
Hardaker levelled the contest after scooping up Tom Briscoe's grubber kick, then returned the compliment with a superb flat pass inside his own half which sent the England winger racing clear to score.
Hardaker's strong finish on the hour mark gave Leeds breathing space and Ben Westwood's late score set up a frantic finish, but the Leeds defence held firm.
As against St Helens, Warrington opened the scoring through prolific winger Monaghan, who read the wind superbly to collect Gareth O'Brien's high kick and juggled with the ball before scoring his third try in two matches.
Stefan Ratchford added the goal to give his side a 6-0 lead after 10 minutes but that was the signal for Leeds' outside backs to show their class.
Kallum Watkins was a constant threat on the right, with Ratchford on the spot to halt one of his breaks, and Briscoe demonstrated his kicking skills to set up a try for Hardaker midway through the first half.
Left winger Ryan Hall, overshadowed by his England colleague Briscoe, put a foot in touch as he attempted to squeeze over at the corner and Hardaker narrowly failed to touch down Danny McGuire's grubber kick on the last tackle.
Warrington, who had another escape when McGuire's pass to an unmarked Briscoe sailed into touch, could not get out of their own half and Leeds' pressure duly told four minutes before half-time when the former Hull flier scored his spectacular try, taking Hardaker's flat pass with a perfectly-timed run and wrong-footing Ratchford before holding off Ben Currie's last-ditch effort.
Kevin Sinfield added both conversions to put his side into a 12-6 lead and Watkins almost added to it within two minutes of the re-start when he was hauled down just short of the tryline.
The visitors improved after the break and O'Brien applied some pressure to the Leeds line but Ratchford was propelled backwards by Hardaker after looking for all the world like a tryscorer.
Hardaker then provided a lesson in finishing by scything through a hesitant Wolves defence to score his second try on 56 minutes and Sinfield kicked his third goal to open up a 12-point lead which was the least the Rhinos deserved.
Sinfield struck an upright with a drop-goal attempt before hobbling off and Warrington scored a consolation try four minutes from the end when second rower Westwood forced his way over from close range.
Ratchford's second goal cut the gap to just six points and the Wolves could have snatched a draw had O'Brien not been brought down just short of the line.