Richie Myler returned to haunt his old club as Leeds Rhinos made an impressive start to the defence of their Betfred Super League title with a rousing 16-12 win at Warrington Wolves.
England winger Ryan Hall, one of 12 members of their Grand Final-winning team, provided the highlight with a brace of tries as the Rhinos condemned Steve Price to defeat in his first competitive match as head coach.
Teenage full-back Jack Walker also impressed, along with Myler, who was chosen to fill the boots of departed skipper Danny McGuire and warmed the hearts of the visiting fans at a chilly Halliwell Jones Stadium with a superb all-round display.
The champions were forced to withstand a late fightback from the home side, who scored a try through Tom Lineham with just two minutes left, although captain Chris Hill missed the late thrills as he left the ground early after his wife went into labour with their fourth child.
A sensational long range try from Ryan Hall in the second half has given the Rhinos the perfect start to the new @SuperLeague season as they win 16-12 and the long drought at The Halliwell Jones Stadium is over! #SLWarLee #LeedsRhinos pic.twitter.com/rnW12qQmmn— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) February 1, 2018
“I have never been in that situation but it is what it is,” said Price. “It was important Chris did the right thing, to be beside his wife.
“It was one of those things. Chris made that decision and he had our support.
“We were aware of it before the game, she was having a few contractions. I guess the timing worked out in Leeds’ favour.”
On the game, Price added: “It was a good starting point. It was most pleasing when, at 16-6, we showed a fair amount of resolve with our goal-line defence.
“As I said all along, it was going to take time with our new combinations but there are a lot of positives.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott was delighted to watch his side end a run of seven successive defeats at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“It’s a big moment, I’m sick of coming here and explaining why we lost,” McDermott said.
“It was okay to good. I’m really pleased we won and we got a lot of tackling practice but there will be a better version of Warrington in five or six rounds.
“We will need to be better and our game management for the last 15 minutes was crazy but our overall performance was good.”