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Former Wakefield skipper Gareth Ellis grabbed a brace of tries as Leeds returned to the engage Super League summit for the first time in 11 months with a 36-20 win over the Wildcats.
The Rhinos required victory by 10 points or more to move above St Helens on points difference and Ellis? first-half brace proved a key contribution to their success.
The Great Britain international enjoyed the tussle against his erstwhile employers while Rhinos full-back Lee Smith claimed a double of his own after the restart.
But it was skipper Kevin Sinfield, who was surprisingly omitted by Great Britain coach Brian Noble for next Tuesday?s Test against New Zealand, who took centre stage, claiming six goals and orchestrating much of his side?s attacking play.
St Helens, who have suffered defeat in their previous two games, will reclaim top spot if they avoid defeat at home to Salford tomorrow, but may now just begin to feel the pressure with Leeds breathing down their necks.
The Wildcats, who caused a storm last season when they claimed a shock 44-28 success at Headingley, fell behind after six minutes when Ellis punished some poor defence.
Sinfield?s offload 20 metres out found Ellis and the former Belle Vue favourite showed some neat footwork to weave his way through and cross the line.
Wakefield believed they had scored after 10 minutes when Semi Tadulala?s touchdown in the left corner was ruled out by the referee following a knock-on by the Wildcats wing.
And the visitors suffered further misery nine minutes later when some meticulous dummy running from Sinfield saw him orchestrate Leeds? second try.
The Rhinos skipper engineered a move which saw the ball pass through Ellis and Danny McGuire?s hands before the latter sent Keith Senior in at the left corner.
Wakefield?s defence was again dreadful as Senior brushed aside their attempts
to halt his progress before squeezing over for a try converted superbly by Sinfield.
The Rhinos were firmly in command at 12-0 but Wakefield showed outstanding spirit and no little skill to draw level with two tries in as many minutes.
Their first score came after 26 minutes when hooker David March found Ben Jeffries from the play-the-ball and the Wildcats scrum half scampered over the line from 10 metres.
They crossed the line shortly after when David Solomona sent Ryan Atkins embarking on a lung-bursting 50-metre run which saw him outpace three Rhinos players and cross the line for a magnificent solo effort.
Jamie Rooney converted both tries but Ellis forced his way over the line two minutes before the break, and with Sinfield converting, Leeds were 18-12 ahead.
However, Leeds began to batter the visitors? line immediately after the restart and their efforts were soon rewarded as two quick tries put them firmly in command of the match.
The first score came when McGuire played a delightful one-two with Chris Feather and crossed before Ellis and Sinfield combined to send Smith over for a simple score.
And on the hour mark McGuire?s brilliant surge and check inside put Smith over for his brace but Sinfield failed to maintain his 100% record with the boot.
Wakefield?s response was again impressive and tries from Jamie Field and Tadulala, neither of which Rooney could convert, rocked Leeds momentarily before Sinfield added a late penalty to ensure, fittingly, that he had the final say.
Leeds (18) 36.
Tries: Ellis 2, Senior, McGuire, Smith 2. Goals: Sinfield 6.
Wakefield (12) 20.
Tries: Jeffries, Atkins, J. Field, Tadulala. Goals: Rooney 2.
Leeds: Smith, Donald, Walker, Senior, Williams, McGuire, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Millard, Bailey, Poching, Ellis, Sinfield.
Replacements: Lauitiiti, O?Neill, Feather, Ablett.
Wakefield: Saxton, Halpenny, Demetriou, Atkins, Tadulala, Rooney, Jeffries, MacGillivray, March, Korkidas, Solomona,
Replacements: Griffin, J. Field, Watene, White.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington)