Leeds 18-35 Wakefield: Trinity to romp to comprehensive Super League win
Last Updated: 01/03/19 10:56pm
Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone ruined Leeds' homecoming with a 12-minute hat-trick of tries in a 35-18 victory at a new-look Headingley.
The Rhinos opted to start their Betfred Super League campaign with four away matches to enable the £45m redevelopment work to continue and had high hopes of improving their fortunes on their eagerly-awaited return.
They had the encouragement of an early try from winger Ash Handley but the game turned on the tryscoring heroics of Johnstone, who made his England debut last October and must be a candidate for the Lions tour on the evidence of his performance.
His first-half treble enabled Trinity to establish a 22-10 interval lead which was more than enough for the visitors to consolidate, thanks largely to the game management of veteran half-back Danny Brough, who finished with 15 points from a try, five goals and a drop goal.
Wakefield, who gave a first appearance of the season to burly forward Pauli Pauli, kept a tight rein on Leeds dangerman Konrad Hurrell and were 35-10 up before conceding two late tries.
Leeds switched Tui Lolohea to full-back on his home debut after Jack Walker failed to shake off a hamstring injury, with Cameron Smith an unlikely half-back partner for Richie Myler.
Lolohea immediately looked a potent attacking threat from his new position and his cut-out pass enabled Handley to score the opening try with just three minutes on the clock.
The wide open spaces at Headingley were ideal for the wingers and they don't come much more lethal than Johnstone, who scored three hat-tricks in 2018 and chalked up his first for 2019 in a 12-minute spell.
His first was routine as the visitors moved the ball smartly out to the left but he produced an acrobatic one-handed finish for his second before plucking Jacob Miller's kick from the air to complete his treble.
With Brough kicking two conversions, Trinity suddenly led 16-4 and, although right winger Tom Briscoe scored a smartly-worked try for Leeds, hooker Kyle Wood went over from dummy half for a fourth Wakefield try nine minutes before the break as they re-established a 12-point advantage.
After both sides suggested they could score from every attack, Wakefield tightened their defence in the closing stages of the first half to keep their lead intact.
Brough extended his side's lead to 24-10 with a penalty four minutes into the second half.
Smith thought he had scored for Leeds but video referee James Child ruled it out due to obstruction and shortly afterwards Wakefield captain Miller sliced through a gap in the home defence for the clinching try.
Trinity lost hard-working second rower Matty Ashurst with a leg injury in the 62nd minute but they were in total control by then.
Brough put over a drop goal and finished off a break by former Leeds winger Ben Jones-Bishop to score Wakefield's sixth try.
Leeds' defeat was compounded by the sin-binning of marquee player Trent Merrin for dissent which saw them finish the game with 12 men, although that did not stop them adding consolation tries through Handley and Briscoe.