NEW SIGNING James Segeyaro enjoyed a memorable debut as Leeds Rhinos turned Super League on its head last night.
Rhinos, bottom of the ladder, hit back from 13-4 down at the break to stun table-toppers Hull 20-15 at KCOM Stadium.
It was Leeds’ fourth win in as many trips to Hull and completed a league double following the 20-18 home success in April.
Rhinos remain at the bottom of the pile, but certainly gave themselves something to build on as they gear up for the their battle against relegation in the middle-eights.
They showed bags of spirit, put themselves about in defence and dominated the second half after being under the cosh for much of the first.
They could have been more clinical with ball in hand and again made some soft errors, but this was a hugely encouraging result and performance.
The margin of victory could have been even greater, as Leeds scored four tries to two, but Liam Sutcliffe missed with three conversion attempts.
Hull led a late as the 75th minute, but eventually weight of pressure told after Leeds had been on top for most of the second half.
Trailing 15-8, they cut the gap to one point with eight minutes left when Mitch Achurch’s kick near the Hull line came off a defender and Kallum Watkins, who got stronger as the game went on, picked up to go over, Sutcliffe adding the extras.
Then Fetuli Talanoa lost the ball near his own line and Watkins seemed to have butchered the chance when he ignored an overlap, went himself and was pulled down.
Leeds, though, retained their composure and the centre powered in from first receiver in the same set.
That gave Leeds a three-point lead and Hull almost snatched it when Jamie Shaul took Marc Sneyd’s kick, but he was kept out by a sensational effort from Sutcliffe, Joel Moon and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
In the final seconds Jordan Lilley almost got over, but managed to force a drop out; Hull went short, were penalised as the hooter went and Sutcliffe completed the scoring with his second goal.
Though it was a contest throughout, a Leeds win looked unlikely for the most part.
One of their most obvious failings this year has been the lack of a top-class kicker in general play.
Hull had one in ex-Castleford scrum-half Sneyd, who provided a masterclass.
Hull’s first try came off his pass after he had carried the hosts upfield with a 40-20 kick and he also forced a series of repeat sets which wore Leeds down before Hull’s second try.
He converted both Hull’s tries, landed a drop goal with the final kick of the opening half and scored their only second half points with a penalty.
Leeds started and finished well. They opened the scoring for the ninth successive game, a run which began in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup defeat at Huddersfield Giants two months ago.
Mitch Garbutt’s big hit forced Mahe Fonau to knock-on and in the set from the scrum a dummy by Rob Burrow created space and he sent Sutcliffe over at the corner.
Lilley was alongside Burrow in the halves after being recalled in place of Danny McGuire. The captain was one of three players sidelined after suffering a foot injury against Widnes five days earlier, the others being Luke Briscoe and Brett Ferres.
Ash Handley was back on the right-wing and forward Brett Delaney returned from injury on the bench. Carl Ablett stepped up to start in the second-row in his second comeback game and Jones-Buchanan – who had been at hooker on the teamsheet last week – had to settle for a place among the substitutes for his 350th Leeds appearance.
Ashton Golding, one of last week’s substitutes, was left out. Coach Brian McDermott did manage to use all four subs, Jimmy Keinhort – who pent the entire Widnes game on the bench – getting on to replace Segeyaro towards the end of the first half. Two poor passes apart, Segeyaro was lively in his two spells and looked a good signing. Handley was close to extending Leeds’ lead soon after Sutcliffe’s try, following a spell on heavy pressure, but Sneyd and Kirk Yeaman prevented him grounding the ball over the Hull line.
Hull managed to weather the early storm and went ahead at the end of the first quarter, following Sneyd’s 40-20; the No 7 providing the final pass, to Carlos Tuimavave, though Achurch will feel he should have done better with his attempted tackle.
Hull steadily turned the screw after that, but didn’t go further ahead until the 33rd minute. Leeds manned up in defence and survived four successive sets in their own 20, after Sneyd forced a couple of drop-outs and Brad Singleton was penalised for interference.
But all that hard work was undone when Lilley knocked-on as Leeds tried to get away from their own line and in the subsequent set Yeaman scooted over down the blindside for a soft try.
Leeds had little ball or territory after the opening exchanges. They did get into Hull’s 20 five minutes before the break and managed to create a three-man overlap, but Fonau stole the ball from Jones-Buchanan.
Watkins and Burrow carved out another attack after that, but Ablett knocked on, Hull went upfield and Sneyd made it 13-6 with his clever kick.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first and Leeds got back into it on 49 minutes when Burrow cross-kicked got Ryan Hall, who made the catch ahead of Steve Michaels and slipped the ball out to Moon.
Earlier, Keinhorst had almost got over after Watkins and Moon combined, then Jones-Buchanan did, but referee Robert Hicks said no try.
Man in the middle Chris Champbell had originally indicated a try after Lilley went to kick, failed to connect and Jones-Buchanan, who was standing in front of his teammate – trapped the ball, picked up and went over unopposed.
Campbell is one of the new generation of referees brought through this year and he did a good job.
After Moon’s touchdown a similar tactic almost paid off again as Burrow’s similar kick went off Michaels and in-goal. Singleton attempted to get a finger on it, but Campbell reckoned he hadn’t grounded it and Hicks agreed.
Burrow did more of the kicking in the second half and made a better job of it. Hull showed Leeds respect when they took the two on 57 minutes after Keith Galloway’s high tackle on Scott Taylor. That came after Hall had been shoved back in goal from Sneyd kick.
Taylor held Jones-Buchanan up over the line at the start of the final quarter and Leeds grew in confidence as the period went on, though for a long time it seemed they would be unable to narrow the gap.
The penalty count finished 7-7 (4-3 to Hull in the first half).