Leeds denied at the death as relegation fears grow

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Super League champions Leeds are on the brink of a relegation scrap after Wakefield staged a late fightback to earn a 20-20 draw and deny Kevin Sinfield a winning return to Headingley.

The Rhinos were on course for their first victory since April after opening up a 20-12 lead, but Kyle Wood’s try and a penalty from Ryan Hampshire snatched a vital point for Trinity.

Wakefield remain three points clear of ninth-placed Leeds with only two games to play, leaving new Rhinos director of rugby Sinfield facing up to a battle for survival in the Qualifiers.

Ryan Hall opened the scoring after a blistering start by Leeds and they responded to Bill Tupou’s superb 70-metre solo effort with quickfire tries from Richie Myler and Ash Handley.

But Justin Horo crossed before the break and the Rhinos had only Liam Sutcliffe’s fourth goal to show for their second-half efforts as their winless Super League run stretched to nine matches.

The Rhinos had already had a Mitch Garbutt try ruled out when Hall strolled over out wide on five minutes after good work by Joel Moon – back at stand-off after a brief return to centre in the heavy defeat by Castleford – and Myler created the space.

But Wakefield halted Leeds’ early momentum and made the hosts defend multiple sets on their own tryline.

The Rhinos eventually cracked as Tupou first used power to break the defensive line and then guile to beat full-back Jack Walker on his way to the line.

Wakefield had a foothold in the game after a shaky start, but they undid their good work in the space of just three minutes.

Tyler Randell’s loose pass from acting-half was kicked ahead and touched down by Myler before Handley went over for his 10th try of the Super League season after Trinity were again caught short on their right edge.

Sutcliffe added his third goal from out wide to give the Rhinos a 12-point cushion, but that was halved by Horo’s converted effort after he took advantage of soft defence to crash over.

Rain greeted the players as they returned to the field for the second half and Leeds initially struggled with the greasy conditions, with two mistakes from high kicks giving Wakefield perfect field position.

But the visitors were unable to take advantage and fell further behind when Sutcliffe made no mistake from a 40-metre penalty.

Brad Dwyer – standing in for the injured Matt Parcell – came close to capping an impressive performance with a try as Leeds tried to end Wakefield’s comeback hopes.

The hooker then produced a try-saving tackle to deny Max Jowitt, but Wood broke the Rhinos’ stubborn resistance and set up a nervy finish when he touched down Jacob Miller’s grubber kick.

Hampshire’s penalty after a high tackle by Brett Ferres made it 20-20 and Miller came agonisingly close to winning it for Wakefield when his drop goal hit the inside of the right-hand post and bounced back.

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