Rhinos kill off Wildcats
Jones-Bishop hat-trick helps champions through play-off opener
Last Updated: 15/09/12 10:54pm
Ben Jones-Bishop: scored hat-trick of tries for Rhinos
Defending Super League champions Leeds kept alive their hopes of another Grand Final appearance by bringing Wakefield's seven-match winning run to a halt in the elimination play-off at Headingley.
The Rhinos trailed three times before finally getting on top of their opponents and ran out 42-20 winners in the end, Ben Jones-Bishop scoring a hat-trick to help earn a trip to Catalan Dragons in next Friday's preliminary semi-final.
Former Leeds Grand Final winners Richard Mathers, Lee Smith and Ali Lauitiiti all scored tries as the Wildcats played their full part in a thoroughly entertaining match and threatened to spring a shock before finally running out of steam.
They led 16-12 early in the second half but Leeds' class told in the end, with Jones-Bishop scoring three second-half tries.
Leeds were boosted by the return of half-back Danny McGuire after a four-match absence with a knee injury and he was at the heart of the action as the Rhinos dominated the opening stages.
But Wakefield's defence was spot on and the only early danger came from a break out of his own half by full-back Zak Hardaker.
Tim Smith was clearly Wakefield's key player and it was his accurate cut-out pass that enabled winger Ben Cockayne to open the scoring for the visitors on 14 minutes.
They scored again nine minutes from half-time when centre Lee Smith released Cockayne and took a return pass to touch down, with Paul Sykes kicking the goal.
The Wildcats spurned other chances, with substitute Frankie Mariano twice spilling passes with the defensive line breached, and Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield crucially knocked down Cockayne's final pass with the tryline beckoning.
Leeds were clearly rattled at that stage and it was only the class of Watkins that kept them in the game by half-time.
He sliced between Sykes and Cockayne to get Rob Burrow over on 22 minutes and demonstrated brilliant footwork and evasive skills again 28 seconds from the interval to create a second try for the diminutive hooker.
Sinfield's second goal made it 12-10 but the Wildcats were back in front within two minutes of the re-start when replacement hooker Kyle Wood freed Mariano and he got Mathers over for his side's third try.
Sykes' second conversion put the visitors into a 16-12 lead but again the champions struck back, this time with their best rugby of the match.
Wakefield loose forward Danny Washbrook saved a certain try when he got back to halt Leeds left winger Ryan Hall after a 70-metre run but his defenders could not regroup quickly enough to prevent right winger Jones-Bishop collecting Sinfield's pinpoint kick to grab his first try.
Sinfield's third goal edged his side back in front and, with their tails up, the champions piled the pressure on visibly tiring opponents.
The Rhinos soon scored again, quicksilver Burrow opening up the Wakefield defence with his trademark jink to get McGuire over for a fourth try.
Hardaker then went 80 metres to bring the 9,034 crowd to its feet with a glorious try after picking up a dropped pass by Wakefield prop Andy Raleigh close to his own line.
Sinfield's fifth goal made it 30-14 but Wakefield battled to the end, scoring again when Lauitiiti touched down Tim Smith's grubber kick.
However, Leeds were in total control by then and Jones-Bishop touched down twice in three minutes to complete his hat-trick, Watkins providing the final pass each time, and Sinfield took his goal tally to seven from as many attempts.
First Utility Super League
Tue 30th Jun
Hull K R34 - 28Salford Red Devils
Wed 1st Jul
Wakefield Wildcats26 - 16Hull FC
Thu 2nd Jul
Warrington Wolves17 - 6Wigan Warriors
Fri 3rd Jul
Leeds Rhinos46 - 18St Helens
Sun 5th Jul
Huddersfield Giants32 - 14Hull K R
Hull FC31 - 24Wakefield Wildcats
Salford Red Devils18 - 14Catalans Dragons
Castleford Tigers34 - 20Widnes Vikings
Thu 9th Jul
Wigan WarriorsvsLeeds Rhinos
Fri 10th Jul
St HelensvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 12th Jul
Hull FC0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Salford Red Devils0 - 0Hull K R
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Warrington Wolves
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Thu 16th Jul
Warrington WolvesvsSt Helens
Fri 17th Jul
Hull K RvsHull FC
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Wigan Warriors0 - 0Widnes Vikings
Sat 18th Jul
Catalans DragonsvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 19th Jul
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Thu 23rd Jul
Hull FCvsWigan Warriors
Fri 24th Jul
St Helens0 - 0Hull K R
Sun 26th Jul
Huddersfield Giants0 - 0Wakefield Wildcats
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Castleford Tigers0 - 0Warrington Wolves