LEEDS RHINOS boosted their hopes of a top-four finish – and possibly runners-up spot – in the regular Betfred Super League season with a 24-22 win over St Helens at Headingley.
Here, our man Peter Smith picks out five talking points from the game:
1: They have played better, but under the circumstances, it was Rhinos’ best win of the season. With a host of key players missing – including their captain/half-back – and coming off the back of a painful and costly defeat to Castleford Tigers six days earlier, Leeds looked vulnerable. But their handling was much improved, they were disciplined and, for the most part, they defended well. The lack of a cutting edge on attack showed, but they did score some good tries and kept their nerve after Saints turned an eight-point deficit into an advantage of four in the second period. An early injury to Matty Smith was a blow for Saints, but Leeds also lost Liam Sutcliffe in the first half and though – like the opening game of the season – it came down to goal kicks, Rhinos deserved the win.
2: After 80 minutes on the bench against Castleford, 17-year-old full-back Jack Walker looked like someone with a point to prove. He has made a big impression in his four appearances this year and looks like a genuine prospect. Rhinos have another quality young player, 20-year-old Ashton Golding, in the No 1 jumper, but both can also play in the halves and their form has been one of the big positives to come out of this season so far.
3: James Child took his tally of yellow cards to 11 in six Rhinos games this year. The decision to sin-bin Saints’ Jon Wilkin for alleged dangerous contact was controversial and the visitors will not have been happy with a 10-4 penalty count against them, but overall the referee had a good game.
4: It was pleasing to see scrum-half Jordan Lilley back in a Rhinos shirt after a loan spell at Bradford Bulls. He took a while to adjust to the pace and physicality of the game, but was involved in two of Leeds’ four tries and his goal kicking – after an early miss – was crucial. Lilley deserves the chance to keep his place and show what he can do.
After 80 minutes on the bench against Castleford, 17-year-old full-back Jack Walker looked like someone with a point to prove.The YEP’s Peter Smith
5: Another unused substitute – so much for it being a 17-man game.