Super League: Tony Smith relieved after Warrington pip Leeds 19-18
Last Updated: 06/07/13 7:13am
Tony Smith: Felt luck was on Warrington's side
Warrington coach Tony Smith was delighted to escape with victory after a below-par performance from his team in a gripping Grand Final re-match against Leeds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The Rhinos looked to have ended the Wolves' five-match winning run after outscoring their hosts by four tries to three but Zak Hardaker, kicking in the absence of Kevin Sinfield, was able to land only one of his four conversion attempts to leave the scores tied at 18-18 going into a frantic last 15 minutes.
"We haven't attacked that badly for a long time and we haven't kicked that badly since last year's Grand Final."
Lee Briers, the most prolific drop-goal kicker of the modern game, then broke the deadlock a minute from the end when he succeeded at the third attempt with a crucial one-pointer, the 69th of his Super League career.
That secured a 19-18 victory that keeps Warrington within a point of leaders Wigan and effectively ends Leeds' hopes of a top-three finish.
"We found a way to win," Smith said. "We haven't attacked that badly for a long time and we haven't kicked that badly since last year's Grand Final.
"We've actually played a lot better than that and been beaten this year and that's not meant to take anything away from Leeds.
"I thought their effort was enormous. They were probably not at their slickest either but I thought Jamie Peacock had his best game for a long time. He was very instrumental in their performance.
"I've got to say the same about Ben Westwood, he was very, very good for us."
Briers was Warrington's match-winner but he could not escape the criticism from his coach for his overall performance.
"They were all ugly kicks, even the last one," Smith aded. "He's not the happiest because he understands the kicking part of his role and, if that is below par, he takes the responsibility."
Brian McDermott refused to point the finger at Hardaker for his goalkicking misses and instead will take the positives from the defeat.
"The kicks were all out wide," he said. "They were all good attempts so we've got to roll with that.
"I'm an immensely proud man to coach a group of men who can do special things.
"It would have been symbolically a massive win with the line-up we had and, although we're disappointed we've lost, we will take a lot out of tonight's game."
McDermott also singled out Jamie Peacock, who made 47 tackles throughout the match.
"I felt for JP," he added. "He was almost sellotaped to the deck at the end."