THIS YEAR’S injury crisis is possibly the worst in Leeds Rhinos’ Super League history, but they have had to cope with the loss of key players in previous seasons.
Boss Brian McClennan had major problems ahead of a tricky trip to Hull KR eight years ago today.
Six senior players were ruled out, so the coach had to improvise. Regular hooker Matt Diskin began the game at loose-forward, Kevin Sinfield and rugby union convert Simon Worrall were in the second-row and academy product Ben Kaye got a start at No 9.
There was also a first Super League appearance for Kallum Watkins, who was among the substitutes a week after making his senior debut in a Challenge Cup win over Celtic Crusaders.
Rhinos had begun their title defence with a home win over Hull KR and the East Yorkshire side were fired up for revenge, taking an early lead when David Mills crossed and Paul Cooke landed the first of his five goals from as many attempts.
Rhinos responded when Diskin sent Brent Webb over and Sinfield converted to level the scores.
Cooke kicked two penalties to edge Rovers four points ahead, but a minute before the break Rob Burrow touched down from acting-half and Sinfield added the extras to make it 12-10.
Kylie Leuluai scored his first try of the season at the start of the second half and Burrow went in again, Sinfield converting both to make it 24-10 and Leeds looked to be in total control.
But two players who came through Rhinos’ academy system got the home team back in the game, Scott Murrell and Peter Fox crossing on 54 and 62 minutes to leave the visitors clinging to a two-point lead.
Under-strength Rhinos were wilting, but Keith Senior weaved over for a brilliantly-taken try on 64 minutes and Sinfield’s goal gave them some breathing space.
The result hung in the balance until four minutes from time when Diskin touched down and Sinfield’s sixth goal completed a hard-fought 36-22 success.
Hull KR 22
(Tries: Mills, Murrell, Fox. Goals: Cooke 5)
Leeds Rhinos 36 (Tries: Burrow 2, Webb, Leuluai, Senior, Diskin. Goals: Sinfield 6)
April 25, 2008, Super League
Hull KR: Briscoe, Fox, Jake Webster, Cockayne, Fitzhenry, Cooke, James Webster, Vella, Fisher, Mills, Newton, Gene, Galea. Subs Lovegrove, Murrell, Crossman, Netherton.
Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Donald, Ablett, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Kaye, Scruton, Sinfield, Worrall, Diskin. Subs Watkins, Peacock, Tansey, Burgess.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.