THE “TOUGHNESS” shown by his team was what pleased coach Brian McDermott most about Leeds Rhinos’ impressive win in their opening First Utility Super League game.
Rhinos kicked off their campaign with a 34-6 victory in front of a stadium record crowd at Hull KR, after the sides had been deadlocked 6-6 at half-time.
England winger Tom Briscoe grabbed a hat-trick on debut as Leeds’ backs’ scored all their seven tries, but McDermott saluted a solid team effort.
“It was pleasing, but it was a tough game,” said the coach.
“For the first 40 minutes it was a real battle and probably for the first 10-15 minutes of the second half.
“We were asked a lot of questions by Hull KR.
“They are a big set of forwards and at times we struggled to contain them.
“But there was a good element of toughness from us and it was a good contest.
“At half-time we talked about it, nothing particularly was going wrong.
“It was a bit scrappy – both teams – but that’s to be expected first game.
“To come out with those tough performances and then put some points on, it is pleasing.”
Rhinos led early on through Joel Moon’s scrambled try, but Rovers hit back mid-way through the opening period.
“Half-time is the first part of the story,” McDermott said.
“The story could have been not great in the second half and we spoke about having to go out and do a job.
“What went on in the first half was part of a good old tough performance.
“It could have gone either way after half-time.
“It wasn’t because of the outside-backs and it wasn’t because of some of those great tries we scored.
“We actually went through some tough periods and we toughed it out.
“That is the most important thing.”
McDermott hailed Rhinos’ defence for conceding just one try and was also happy with their “game management”.
He added: “Hull KR didn’t have a huge amount of ball near our tryline, though when they did we certainly looked lively defensively.
“Keeping them away from our tryline was probably the most significant thing in that second half.”
Briscoe became the eighth Leeds player to score three tries on debut, something last done by Ashley Gibson in 2005.
“At this level if you bring somebody in of Tom Briscoe’s calibre I don’t know if you expect him to finish those, but there’s certainly an expectation he will do,” McDermott said.
“The pleasing thing for me was what he did in some of our work sets, some of our sets coming away from our tryline.
“He was hard to contain. He is a strong fella and a very robust winger, with speed.
“I’d rather have that and the tries will take care of themselves.
“He punched a few holes in Hull KR’s defence early on for us and that’s something we value as highly as scoring tries.
“He does create a lot of opportunities coming away from your tryline – he is not just a fancy finisher-offer. He has also got some tough stuff in him as well.”
Rhinos’ other debutant, hooker Paul Aiton, left the ground with a foot in a protective boot.
“He has got a bit of an ankle twist, but I don’t think it’s anything serious,” McDermott added.