Hooker Kruise Leeming reckons Leeds Rhinos are rediscovering their ‘DNA’

OFF-SEASON RECRUIT Kruise Leeming was delighted to bag his first two tries for Leeds Rhinos, but even happier with a place in the Coral Challenge Cup semi-finals.

Monday, 21st September 2020, 6:00 am
Hooker Kruise Leeming crosses for his second try in Leeds Rhinos' Challenge Cup quarter-final victory over Hull KR. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe/JPIMedia.

The England Knights hooker crossed twice in Rhinos’ 48-18 quarter-final win over Hull KR.

Those touchdowns broke Leeming’s duck in his sixth game for Leeds and the former Huddersfield Giants man was satisfied with his contribution to an unexpectedly comfortable victory, though he stressed the team effort was what mattered most.

Having started slowly against Giants in their previous game, Leeds hit the ground running and were 24-0 ahead by the end of the opening quarter.

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Leeds Rhinos hooker Brad Dwyer in recent action against Wigan Warriors. Picture: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia.

It was 30-0 at the break and, despite the second half being more even, Leeds secured their 18th semi-final appearance in 25 seasons in emphatic style.

Leeming spun over from acting-half in the first stanza and supported build-up play by Luke Gale and Richie Myler to double his tally 14 minutes after the break.

“It was good,” he said of getting off the mark for Rhinos.

“We were good through the middle, we’ve been practising it a bit in training and I just managed to find myself in the right place at the right time.

Hull KR coach, Tony Smith. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“It was good for me to get over, but more important is the win as a team.

“We looked good, we scored some really good tries, which is back to Leeds’ DNA.

“It was a good win.”

Rovers are bottom of Betfred Super League and lost 52-10 at Emerald Headingley in February, but had beaten Wigan Warriors and taken St Helens to golden-point extra-time in their two previous games.

Leeds were expecting a tight encounter and Leeming stressed the fast start was exactly what they needed and had planned for.

“You are always striving for perfection and that’s the bit we have been trying to sort out,” he said.

“We have been finishing games really strong and coming back, but we don’t want to be a team that starts [badly] and comes back at the end.

“It has been a massive focus for us in our preparation - we had a good week’s prep’, we started really fast and I think we took Hull KR by surprise a little bit.”

Leeming admitted Rhinos “did get a little bit scrappy” after half-time, when the game was already in the bag.

“We did talk about that afterwards,” he said.

“It’s a positive, even though we posted 48 points we have still got some improvement in us.

“I think that will be a massive focus for us next week, to try and finish the game out and not have these blips.

“We don’t just want to play well in the first 20 or the back 20, or the bit in between, we need to be good for 80 minutes.”

But the hooker insisted: “We have got to a semi-final in the Challenge Cup, which is a massive positive.

“We need to be happy and enjoy it, then get in on Monday and look at the negatives.”

Rhinos are back in league action on Thursday, against the same opposition at Warrington’s HJ Stadium.

Hull KR coach Tony Smith has pledged to make a series of team changes and Leeming reckons Leeds will have to play better to maintain their winning run. He said: “It is a bit strange playing teams back-to-back,” he said.

“This week we need to turn up even more fired up, it is a weird thing to play somebody twice [in successive games].

“Especially with Hull KR getting beaten like they did, I expect a massive improvement from then.

“They will be ‘filthy’, so we need to turn up.”

Leeming was Rhinos’ only specialist hooker in the Cup tie, but Brad Dwyer will be available on Thursday following a one-match ban.

The ex-Huddersfield rake picked up a knee injury at Christmas and had to wait until August for his Leeds debut.

He admitted he is still getting used to the pace of the game, particularly under rugby league’s new rules.

“I’ve spoken a lot to the lads about getting my running legs back,” he said.

“I’ve been out for nine months and not played a competitive game, then I’ve come in against good teams - like Wigan and Saints - and been playing big minutes as well.

“It is good for me to get my running legs back and every week I feel like I am getting them back a little bit more.

“On Friday I felt good and I just want to repay the fans and the players and all the staff for sticking by me when I was injured.

“Every week I am working hard to do that, so it was good to get over for the two tries and to start getting my running legs back.”

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