CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Kevin Sinfield became rugby league’s fourth-highest points scorer as Leeds Rhinos made it four wins from four with a sensational second-half revival at Hull last night.
Sinfield converted all seven tries and a booted a drop goal in the 43-12 victory to take his career points tally to 3,995.
The captain can rarely have been involved in a better 40 minutes of attacking rugby than the second period last night.
Rhinos were 12-0 down at the break. Hull – inspired by excellent scrum-half Marc Sneyd – played at a faster pace and it took some strong defence to keep them down to only two tries, but with the ball Leeds lacked control and composure.
The second half was a totally different story as Rhinos ripped Hull to shreds, scoring 43 unanswered points.
They were level within four minutes and played some dazzling rugby, with Brad Singleton setting a superb lead in the front-row.
Kallum Watkins broke through the home defence more or less at will and Danny McGuire, in his 350th Leeds appearance, scored a brace of tries and set up another to make up for a poor opening period.
Leeds’ fourth win makes this their best start to a Super League campaign since 2008 and lifted them top of the table.
The second half was in total contrast to the first.
Hull came out strong and fast and went ahead after seven minutes following some sustained pressure on the Leeds line.
Kallum Watkins was adjudged to have played at the ball when it was blasted at him from close range to concede a scrum on half-way.
Referee Richard Silverwood then penalised Stevie Ward for interference, Zak Hardaker had to scramble a kick dead and though Marc Sneyd knocked-on, Adam Cuthbertson was penalised for passing off the ground on the free play.
Former Hull winger Tom Briscoe then knocked on attempting to go for an intercept and on the last play of the next set Sneyd kicked over the line and Leon Pryce touched down for a try confirmed by video referees Steve Ganson and Ben Thaler.
Silverwood penalised Leeds again in the set from the re-start and only Kevin Sinfield’s tackle kept Kirk Yeaman out before Sneyd tried the same kick and this time Steve Michaels caught it, but was prevented from getting the ball down by Ryan Hall.
Leeds though were pinged for a forward pass as they cleared their line, but survived that attack and actually managed to get to the end of the set.
It took Leeds until the end of the first quarter to get a sight of the Hull line, courtesy of back-to-back penalties, but Danny McGuire ran into touch as he tried to offload.
Rhinos had a mistake a moment later when Sneyd put up a high bomb which Hall missed and Tom Lineham touched down, but Silverwood – eventually – called for help and the try was ruled out for offside.
Their luck didn’t last for long though. The feed at a scrum on half-way went to Hull, though Joe Westerman looked to have knocked on and Pryce stretched over in the resulting set, with Sneyd’s second goal making it 12-0.
That was on 24 minutes and was a fair reflection of the game up to that point, despite the dubious decision which led to it.
Leeds’ first real threat came on the half hour after McGuire’s bomb caused chaos in front of the Hull posts and led to a penalty to the visitors, only for Jamie Jones-Buchanan to knock-on over the line.
That summed up the difference between the teams. Both defended well, but Hull were much more controlled and clinical with the ball.
Rhinos did start to make more ground in the final 10 minutes of the half, but rarely looked like make anything of the territory they gained and Hull came closest to scoring when Sneyd was wide with a drop goal attempt late on.
McGuire made amends for a poor first 40 by his standards right at the start of the second period.
Having scored 52 seconds into the second half against Huddersfield a week earlier, Leeds bettered that last night, with a try 37 seconds after the kick-off. Adam Cuthbertson had a run, Brad Singleton made a magnificent break, took on the full-back and offloaded to the supporting McGuire, whose touchdown was converted from wide out by Sinfield.
Leeds received a penalty in the set from the re-start and scored again when McGuire’s brilliant pass was finished off by Singleton and Sinfield levelled the scores with his second goal, on 44.
On 52 minutes Rhinos were ahead. Watkins got on the outside of Sneyd, broke clear and McGuire was in support to cross for his second, though the final pass looked forward.
Sinfield’s conversion brought up his own personal milestone and he added two more just before the hour after Watkins scored a brilliant solo try, bursting up the middle and putting on some footwork to skin the full-back.
With 18 minutes left Leeds moved three scores clear when they got a penalty and a repeat set, Rob Burrow turned the ball back to Kylie Leuluai and he put his head down and barrelled over.
Sinfield added the extras to make it 30-12.
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has yet to change his starting line-up, so Leeds went with the same 13 as the previous four games.
The only change in the squad was Burrow’s return on the bench, in place of Liam Sutcliffe, the No 7 having sat out the last two matches.
He came on after 56 minutes and scored on 69, beginning and finishing a move also involving Carl Ablett, McGuire and Hardaker.
Sinfield converted and added a drop goal before Burrow scored from his own grubber, for his 150th touchdown in Super League, with the captain landing his seventh conversion to complete the scoring.
Hull were without Jordan Thompson and Setaimata Sa due to injury and had to make a late change when Liam Watts dropped out.
He was replaced on the bench by England Academy captain Jansin Turgut, who made his senior debut for the Airlie Birds when he came on as the first change after 18 minutes.
The penalty count finished 9-7 in Leeds’ favour (5-5 at half-time).