Leeds Rhinos: Winger Hall earns praise for his defence

Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall
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Man of the match Ryan Hall was pleased to receive the plaudits from his coach for a sensational rearguard action in Leeds Rhinos’ 32-12 Tetley’s Challenge Cup fifth round win over St Helens.

Hall – known as the World’s Best Winger – didn’t get a clear try-scoring opportunity, but contributed a series of key tackles, coped faultlessly under a barrage of kicks from Saints half-back Luke Walsh and made valuable metres up field as he cleared Rhinos’ lines.

Hall is better known for his finishing powers, but coach Brian McDermott pin-pointed his effort in defence as a key factor in Rhinos’ victory and the England stalwart reflected: “It’s nice to hear the coach saying that, about an area of my game I don’t normally get praised for.

“As a winger you don’t often get recognised for your defensive work, so it’s good to hear comments like that.”

But Hall insisted: “What gives me satisfaction is the fact we’ve won the game and we are through to the next round.

“We’ve aimed up, because we knew it was a massive game. It was in the Challenge Cup and that’s something that’s hanging over our heads, so what makes me proud is the fact we live to fight another day and we are through into the pot for the next round.

“Now we just have to see who we get drawn against.”

The quarter-final draw will be made tonight, with ties played on the weekend of June 7 and 8.

Leeds’ five First Utility Super League games before then see them face defending Cup and League champions Wigan Warriors twice, second-placed Castleford Tigers, Hull and last year’s Grand Final runners-up Warrington Wolves.

Hall said Rhinos will put the Challenge Cup to one side until those league games are out of the way.

“We will take it week by week,” Hall said. “The people in charge will manage us and I put my trust in them.

“They will get us ready for the next round. We have got Wigan, Cas and then Wigan again, but the backroom staff will manage it – and have managed it this year – and I am sure we’ll come out and give it our best shot.

Hall’s 12 tries this term have come in 11 matches and he has been one of Rhinos most in-form players over recent weeks, after a slow start to the campaign and a barren end to 2012, when he crossed just once in Leeds’ final nine games.

The 26-year-old was a member of England’s World Cup squad and part of the team beaten by an 80th-minute try in a Wembley semi-final against New Zealand last November.

He said his recent form has finally helped him get over that agonising defeat.

“The last time we were on the BBC was the England game at Wembley,” he recalled.

“At the time I felt I really needed to play again to get over that loss, but we had to wait three months to play.

“I think I am at the point now when I have actually forgotten about it.

“I was thinking about it before Saturday, with that being on the BBC, but it’s behind me now.

“I took some good memories out of the World Cup, not just that heartbreaking defeat, but that [the win over Saints] helped a bit.”

England will be back in action at the end of the year, when they take part in a Four Nations series in Australia and New Zealand.

Though he did not score on Saturday, Saints’ Tommy Makinson is being tipped as a contender for the tour party and Hall said he welcomes the rivalry.

“You need to have raw athleticism to play on the wing,” he said.

“I think that’s happening now in the English game.

“There’s a lot of good athletes coming through and playing rugby.

“It’s nice to see we are getting competition for places all over the park for the Four Nations.

“Tommy Makinson is putting his hand up and we’ll see how it turns out at the end of the year.”

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