Hull FC 34 Leeds Rhinos 10: Crisis deepens as sorry Leeds Rhinos fold again
EVEN BY their recent disappointing standards, Leeds Rhinos plumbed new depths when they were embarrassed 34-10 at Hull last night.
Positives first: Rhinos started well, Harry Newman scored a good try and set up another and Leeds conceded only four points in the second half.
Other than that, it was an unacceptable performance from one of the sport’s supposed big guns.
On the final play of the first half Leeds received a penalty, Richie Myler worked the ball to Tui Lolohea and he hurled the ball 20 metres backwards into touch. That summed up Leeds’ inept effort in the first 40.
Rhinos have picked up two points from their opening six games – and that was a game brought forward from round 10.
London Broncos, who have won twice, are next up at Emerald Headingley in six days’ time and the pressure is well and truly on.
Last week, against Wakefield, Rhinos were ripped open on their right-edge. Last night it was the left side and up the middle as well in a 22- minute spell – when Hull went from 10-0 down to 30-10 ahead.
The hosts got off the mark on 18 minutes and scored again on 24, 27, 30 and 34 minutes. Rhinos couldn’t get hold of the ball, fell off tackles and conceded a run of penalties.
Rhinos need to be more disciplined, make their tackles – teams are getting success by running straight at Leeds near the line – and not let their heads drop as they invariably do, when the pressure’s on.
They steadied the ship in the second half when there were fewer penalties, they had more of the ball and it was evenly contested.
But that’s not much consolation for a team trailing by 20 at the break.
Going 70 minutes without scoring a point is a worrying statistic.
It was Hull’s third successive win since 37-year-old Gareth Ellis came out of retirement. Maybe Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow should get back in training.
Hull were good, though not as good as Rhinos made them look. They were quick, direct and offloaded the ball well, though visiting fans gave them a burst of ‘you’re nothing special, we lose every week’ in the second half.
When Newman’s first try for Rhinos gave them an early lead it looked like being a positive night for Leeds.
The centre had not been due to start, being named on the bench with Liam Sutcliffe at centre in place of knee injury victim Kallum Watkins.
But Carl Ablett, who had been set to make his first appearance of the season following ankle surgery, pulled up in the warm-up so Newman got his chance.
He started at centre, Sutcliffe stayed in the second-row – where he has been all season – and Brad Dwyer got a very late call-up on the bench.
It was only Newman’s fifth appearance for Leeds and he showed early glimpses of why he has built such a big reputation on dual-registration at Featherstone Rovers.
Initially he showed great awareness to jump over from acting-half after Tom Briscoe had been pulled down just short.
Then, his pass sent Briscoe over after Matt Parcell – restored to the starting 13 – and Lolohea had handled.
Trent Merrin did some of the ground work with a strong run earlier in the set. He was at loose-forward and Mikolaj Oledzki started in the front-row.
Lolohea, at stand-off following full-back Jack Walker’s return from injury, converted the first from wide out and hit a post with his second kick.
At that stage Leeds looked like a good, confident team. The rest of the half suggested otherwise.
Both those tries came in penalty sets, Leeds initially opting for a tap from a kickable position.
Hull got over the line from their first penalty, but again Newman was in the right place at the right time, managing to prevent Josh Griffin getting the ball down.
That was an escape, but another penalty moments later, on 16 minutes, was made to count when Albert Kelly hurled a long cut-out pass which gave winger Ratu Naulago a walk-in.
Marc Sneyd added the extras.
Leeds have struggled to defend penalty sets this year and paid the price again on 24 minutes.
Back-to-back awards carried Hull upfield, they tapped the second in front of the posts and Masi Matongo crashed over from a pass by Sneyd – who converted – for a simple score of the sort which is becoming commonplace against them.
Things went from bad to worse in the next set when Mark Minichiello broke through the middle and Sneyd was in support to score and also add the two to make it 18-10.
And reached catastrophic proportions shortly afterwards. Hull added a third converted try in six minutes when Joe Westerman and Sika Manu sent Jamie Shaul stepping over.
Then Rhinos conceded two more penalties and Kelly ghosted through. It’s worth mentioning – for its novelty value – a try-saving tackle, made by Walker on Minichiello, on the previous play. With Sneyd maintaining his 100 per cent record the score had gone from 10-0 to Leeds on nine minutes to 30-10 in Hull’s favour with six still to go to the break.
Leeds did get over the line in the final minute of the half when Kelly fumbled Myler’s kick, but Brad Singleton’s touchdown was ruled out for a knock on. The teams meandered through the final 40. It took Hull 17 minutes of the second half to add to their lead and when they did it was a scruffy try, Dean Hadley kicking through and touching down from a kick by Sneyd who could not convert.
Naulongo was ruled offside when he touched down Sneyd’s grubber and Oledzki got over the line at the other end, but was held up.
Ellis suffered a bang to the head early in the second half in an incident which was placed on report.
The penalty count was 10-8 in Hull’s favour (six-four to the visitors in the first half).