CHRIS SANDOW’S HAVING A PARTY…

  Bring your vodka and your Charlie.

You can already see that being the big song for this year’s annual magic weekend concourse rave, can’t you?

One pissed up lad on someone’s shoulders belting out the first line while 2,000 people in the mosh pit around him shout the response at him. 

It’ll be the loudest the Gallowgate End has been since Newcastle won a corner against Man United 12 years ago. 

How good is it to be back at the match?

There was such a feeling of a reunion on Thursday that the west stand played host to what seemed like a re-enactment of that scene from Phoenix Nights when Brian gets everyone to meet up at the club.

“You call singing at Asda having a life? Lying to kids as they cross the road? That’s not living, that’s existing.”

And while the Phoenix Club had a new licensee, the massed ranks of travelling Wire fans were there for the first glimpse of the new general on the pitch, Kurt Gidley, in competitive action.

The former Newcastle Knights man had impressed in pre-season and the early signs of the real business look good and his combination with Chris Sandow – and Ratchford when he’s fit – could be mouth-watering.

Leeds will obviously be weakened this year by the loss of their lynchpin Kevin Sinfield, much like we were for the two years following Briers’ departure, and there is a good chance that if he was on the field on Thursday the result would have been different.

Of course, he most likely would have landed that penalty kick at the end – and probably the conversion that Hardaker missed – but it was during all those sets that Leeds had on our try line when they were crying out for a spark of creativity to unlock our defence and turn their possession into points.

That said, our defence was absolutely outstanding and the likes of Hardaker, Watkins, Moon and Hall will run riot against lesser defences whoever is at half back.

Rhys Evans, in particular, was immense up against a genuinely top class centre in Joel Moon.

It’ll be a big year for the Welshman. He’s been on the fringes of the first team for what feels like an eternity but his rotten luck with injuries has hindered his opportunities. He has always impressed when he has played but has yet to be able to put in a good run of games.

If he can steer clear of injury this year, it could be his breakthrough season.

Tony Smith certainly has faith in his abilities, giving him a starting squad number to replace Chris Bridge and performances like this can only go to vindicate that decision.

The other centre on Thursday was Ben Currie, another young player with immense potential.

He impressed every week last year in a bog average team and was at the heart of a lot of what was good about our performance at Headingley. His chase down of Burrow showed what speed he has and was a pivotal moment in the game.

At the time, it probably felt that Burrow had ballsed it up himself by arching his run and seeming to stop, but you have to credit Currie for not giving it up as a lost cause.

Having spent most of the first half defending our try line, Chris Sandow showed the Leeds halfbacks how it is done when he made the territory count, dropping his shoulder and slicing through the Rhinos defence to touch down in front of the travelling support.

Gidley’s conversion gave us a 6-0 lead at the break.

The scores were levelled after the interval when Brad Singleton barged onto a drop off from Burrow and, according to James Child and the video ref at least, managed to get the ball down.

The hosts took the lead after good footwork from Joel Moon saw him get the better of Rhys Evans for the only time all game and the Aussie danced through the defence before getting a miraculous offload away to Jordan Lilley who found Ryan Hall with just enough space to touch down despite the attentions of Matty Russell.

Hardaker’s missed conversion was a welcome relief and gave the Wire a lift.

Another piece of magic from Sandow created the winning score.

As the Leeds defence pushed up outside him to cut off his pass options, his inch perfect kick to Ben Currie gave the future man of steel a two-on-one and he put Kevin Penny away for a stroll in, sparking some #scenes in the west stand.

Gidley’s conversion were the final points of the game, but it was Hardaker’s missed penalty that sealed the victory.

Justice, really, because to say that Lilley went down a bit soft after his chip and chase would be like saying that Jimmy Savile had a thing for younger women.

A hard fought, well deserved victory at the home of the reigning champions – treble winners, no less – isn’t a bad way to start the season at all.

The real challenge, of course, is to keep up this level of performance throughout the season.

If last season was the Phoenix getting burnt down, here’s hoping this season is more like the Talent Trek final.

Vodka and Charlie at the ready.

 

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