Leeds Rhinos: Huge gulf in class is exposed by Rhinos

Kevin Sinfield
Kevin Sinfield
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CLUB LEGENDS Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow both reached major milestones as Leeds Rhinos cruised to a 48-22 derby win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Headingley Carnegie.

The second of Sinfield’s eight goals – from as many attempts – took him through the 4,000 career points barrier, the Leeds skipper becoming the fourth player in rugby league’s 120-year history to achieve that feat.

Later in the first half Burrow scored back-to-back touchdowns, his first taking him to 1,000 points for Leeds. Only 12 players have done that.

Apart from those historic moments, it was a routine win for Leeds in a forgettable game. Injury-hit Wildcats, on a six-game losing run, gave it a good go – especially in the opening 40 – and were more competitive than many in the bumper 17,608 crowd might have expected.

Before the game they would probably have settled for scoring 22 points and keeping Leeds below 50, but there was a gulf in class and Rhinos won in second gear.

Leeds led 30-16 at the break, after Wakefield had twice equalised. They got close to the home line four times and scored three tries.

With absolutely nothing to lose Wakefield decided to chance their arm and it worked to an extent, though Leeds clearly felt they could score whenever they felt like it.

Rhinos over-did it far too often, though when it worked they scored some fine tries. Overall it was a case of job done, the hosts maintaining their winning run without having to use up a great deal of energy.

Wakefield showed more grit and determination – and were better with the ball – than in their 40-4 home defeat by Catalans Dragons four days earlier, which should have been a winnable game.

Though they ran out of steam in the final quarter, they did not run up the white flag, as they have done in previous drubbings this term.

Wildcats coach James Webster had been worried he wouldn’t be able to name a 19-man squad, due to injuries, so it could have been much worse for the visitors.

Dean Collis dropped out from the side beaten by Catalans, due to a ruptured testicle. Mickael Simon (concussion) was another casualty, but Jarrod Sammut returned at full-back and Pita Godinet was restored to the side on the bench, though he went off hurt in the second half.

Wakefield also lost captain Danny Kirmond to a head knock after the break.

Jamie Peacock was the only Rhinos player rested from the side which beat Castleford Tigers on Good Friday.

Sinfield returned after a three-game lay-off, due to a hamstring problem, but could not displace Liam Sutcliffe from the stand-off role. Sinfield was named at loose-forward, the first time he has started a game there since a 12-7 win at Crusaders on June 17, 2011.

In the first game since he announced his move to Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the season, Sinfield received a tremendous reception from the crowd and was named Rhinos’ official man of the match.

Burrow got a rare start, even rarer it was at scrum-half, with Danny McGuire dropping to the bench. Brett Delaney made his first start of the season, swapping places with Stevie Ward, who was among the substitutes.

Leeds were on the front foot throughout, getting over the line three times before their first try, on 10 minutes. Burrow kicked a 40-20 – Leeds’ first of the campaign – at the end of the opening set and from it Ryan Hall touched down at the corner, but referee Matthew Thomason reckoned Zak Hardaker’s pass was forward.

Brad Singleton was then twice held up over the line, both from passes by acting-half Paul Aiton. He completed a strange hat-trick by doing it again early in the second period.

Eventually Wakefield cracked when Burrow dabbed a grubber through and Hall touched down just before the ball rolled dead.

Four minutes later Kallum Watkins, who had a strong game, split the defence from Hall’s pass. He had support inside and out, but Hardaker couldn’t take his pass on the short side.

Leeds, who had enjoyed all the ball up to then, were immediately penalised and Danny Washbrook caught them napping from the tap, setting field position for Tim Smith to step through for a well-taken try, which Craig Hall converted.

Leeds responded immediately, in style. Watkins again broke clear and used Sutcliffe in support. He put Hardaker over, but again Wakefield hit back.

Leeds were pressing for another try when Hardaker’s pass was intercepted by – or handed straight to – Craig Hall and he showed impressive pace to go the full length for a try which he also converted. Leeds had been totally dominant, but it was 12-12 after 23 minutes. Rhinos seemed to be running away with it when they scored back-to-back tries, but again Wildcats responded.

Hall found Burrow and he dashed clear to score unopposed, then Carl Ablett – playing despite a nasty finger injury – broke in the set from the re-start and the same player was in support to cross again.

That made it 24-12, but Sammut crossed five minutes before the break after Godinet, Washbrook and Ali Lauitiiti had handled. Thomason missed a forward pass in the build-up and Hall did similar with his attempted conversion and there was still time for Leeds to score again, Watkins finishing off nice work by Ward.

The failed conversion from Sammut’s try sent Leeds in with a three-score advantage and that always looked too big a gap for Wakefield to bridge.

Leeds made the game absolutely safe 16 minutes into the second half when Ash Handley went over for his second senior try, off a smart pass by McGuire, who had just come on.

Wakefield’s George Griffin dropped the ball over the line after Godinet had gone close on 58 minutes, but Andy Yates barged over for his first Super League try, off McGuire’s pass, then Watkins crossed following an error by Sammut.

Wakefield stuck at it though and were rewarded with the game’s final try, Daniel Smith barging over against his former club and Hall converting.

That came following Wakefield’s only penalty of the half.

The count finished 6-3 in Leeds’ favour, after being 1-1 in the first half.

Still improving: Zak Hardakers attacking game has improved steadily since switching from Leeds Rhinos to Castleford Tigers.

Carl Ablett: Why Zak deserves my vote for his second Man of Steel award