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Rhinos were exceptional - Smith

Warrington head coach Tony Smith was full of praise for Leeds' performance after they hammered his side 49-10 in their Super 8s opener at Headingley Carnegie.

The Rhinos ran in eight tries as they avenged two defeats by the Wolves in the regular season and laid down a big marker as the race to Old Trafford hots up.

Smith admitted Warrington could not live with Leeds, who moved two points clear at the top of Super League.

"I think that was pretty exceptional, the best I've seen the Rhinos all year," said Smith, who felt debutant Chris Sandow showed glimpses of what he is capable of.

"I thought they were really good at the start against Saints, but they didn't fall away tonight. They were rampant and all their dangerous players were very, very dangerous.

"I don't know many teams who would have competed with the Rhinos the way they played.

"I thought we did well to contain them to that score at times."

Kevin Penny opened the scoring for the Wolves, but tries from Kallum Watkins, Zak Hardaker and Tom Briscoe put Leeds in control before a contentious moment in the build-up to the Rhinos' fourth try. Carl Ablett was adjudged to have knocked on by on-field referee James Child, but the video referees awarded the try to Danny McGuire.

"I'm not by any means saying this decided the match, but it's a knock-on by Ablett every day of the week," he said.

"Leeds were ready to pack the scrum - it's a rugby league knock-on. To quote (former Huddersfield and St Helens coach) Nathan Brown, 'If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's a duck'. That was a knock-on.

"If we get to the stage where we're not going to call those plays a knock-on, it's not rugby league and changes the whole face of the game."

While sixth-placed Warrington have it all to do to reach the play-offs, Leeds are well on course for the top four.

The Rhinos reached the Challenge Cup final courtesy of a brilliant display against St Helens and backed it up on Friday night, with two-try Hardaker their stand-out performer.

"It's not finesse with Zak, he's backing himself and is a tough tenacious man," said Leeds head coach Brian McDermott.

"He's got a fantastic attitude. He's a colourful character and we talk about him sometimes for the wrong reasons and because of that we don't get to talk about who he is, and he's just one of the ultimate competitors.

"Performances like that against a potentially very dangerous team on the back of last week as well, he's got to be in contention (for England)."

Leeds were denied a perfect evening after Catalans-bound Paul Aiton suffered a suspected broken arm which is set to rule him out of the Wembley showpiece on August 29.

"It's probably going to be six weeks, if there are no complications, so we'll get him back for the last three weeks hopefully," McDermott added.

"It's a big blow but we've got Rob Burrow replacing him and that's a fortunate place to be in. He'll be supported by either Robbie Ward or Jordan Lilley."


From Belfast Telegraph