Huddersfield Giants 26 Leeds Rhinos 27 - Rhinos stunning comeback crowned by Luke Gale’s golden point winner

WITH 12 minutes left of their first game for five months Leeds Rhinos trailed Huddersfield Giants 26-6 and were a man down.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 2nd August 2020, 10:57 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd August 2020, 11:13 pm
02 August 2020. Picture James Hardisty.
Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhino's, in the Betfred Super League match held at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Pictured Luke Briscoe, of Leeds Rhinos, dives to score a try whilst been tackled by Darnell Mcintosh, of Huddersfield Giants.
02 August 2020. Picture James Hardisty. Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhino's, in the Betfred Super League match held at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Pictured Luke Briscoe, of Leeds Rhinos, dives to score a try whilst been tackled by Darnell Mcintosh, of Huddersfield Giants.

A frantic quarter of an hour later and Leeds had won 27-26 to go top of Betfred Super League, on points difference, in the most unexpected and dramatic fashion.

Giants were the better team for 68 of the 82 minutes, but Leeds produced the comeback of all comebacks, capped by Luke Gale’s brilliant 35-metre golden point drop goal winner.

Rhinos conceded seven penalties in succession in the second half and the last of those came after Ash Handley intercepted close to Leeds’ line with a clear run, but was penalised for offside, hurled the ball down in disgust and was sin-binned.

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02 August 2020. Picture James Hardisty. Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhino's, in the Betfred Super League match held at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Pictured Konrad Hurrell, of Leeds Rhinos, scoring a try.

Inevitably, Giants scored from the penalty when Louis Senior went over from a pass by Aiden Sezer who also added the two for his third goal.

That opened a 20-point gap and, but incredibly Leeds – having offered so little to that point – managed to score three tries in six minutes, two of them before Handley returned.

Gale cut through for a solo try, Luke Briscoe scored from Rhyse Martin’s pass and Gale sent Alex Mellor stretching over against his old club.

With two minutes left Konrad Hurrell managed to get the ball down from Richie Myler’s pass and Martin kept his never to square the scores with his third goal.

02 August 2020. Picture James Hardisty. Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhino's, in the Betfred Super League match held at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Pictured Rhyse Martin, of Leeds Rhinos, tackles Ashton Golding, of Huddersfield Giants.

Jake Wardle went close with a drop goal attempt as the hooter sounded and Handley then kicked ahead to give Giants another go, but Leeds snuffed out the danger.

Both teams had possession in time added on, but Lee Gaskell’s off-target one-point attempt gave Leeds a seven-tackle set and on the last of those Gale landed his winner from 35 metres.

Earlier, Leeds – officially the away team for the behind close doors fixture at Headingley – had looked to be heading for a drubbing similar to the one they suffered exactly six months earlier in round one against Hull.

Giants led 14-6 at half-time and extended that by six on 47 minutes when Rob Lui aimed a pass to the right-flank close to Giants’ line, but it went behind Harry Newman and Luke Briscoe and was picked up by Darnell McIntosh who held off Handley on a 70-metre sprint to complete his hat-trick.

02 August 2020. Picture James Hardisty. Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhino's, in the Betfred Super League match held at Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Pictured Luke Gale, of Leeds Rhinos, celebrates with his teammates after his drop kick wins the match for Leeds Rhino's.

Even at that stage, with one more Giants try to come, there seemed no way back for Rhinos, who had been second best in all departments.

Leeds made a series of errors, couldn’t get their last tackle plays going and were caught out defensively too many times, particularly on edges. Senior – on the other side to McIntosh – crossed twice.

Though they led briefly early on, Rhinos only really got going once Handley had been shown a yellow card.

They chanced their arm and with Gale in inspirational form, it worked for them.

When this Leeds team get their attack going, they are tough to defend against and great fun to watch.

Rhinos fielded the same starting 13 who demolished Toronto all those months ago and the only change to their 17 was Kruise Leeming’s inclusion on the bench, in place of Callum McLelland.

Leeming, now fit after a pre-season knee injury, got on after 51 minutes, so it was a debut to remember

Ashton Golding, who made the reverse move from Leeds to Huddersfield, was a debutant for Giants and, rather predictably, had a fine game when Huddersfield were on top. His pass created one try, he was solid defensively and marshalled Leeds effectively from the back, before it all went horribly wrong.

All four tackle restarts in the first half led to a try, three of them to Giants.

Luke Briscoe retained his place on the right-wing, despite his brother Tom now being fit and available following his anterior cruciate ligament injury and it was his error which handed Giants the field position for the opening try, inside four minutes when Gaskell slid a kick over the line and Senior touched down, too far out for Sezer to add the extras. The lead lasted until the 13th minute when Gale made a break from inside his own half with Mellor in support.

He did well to supply Handley – linking in from full-back with Myler off for a concussion test – and his pass was finished at the corner by Hurrell.

Martin landed the conversion, but within moments Golding’s pass sent McIntosh through a big gap for Giants’ second unconverted try.

On 22 minutes Kenny Edwards stole the ball from Lui and after the count was restarted, Matt Prior was penalised for a high shot on Golding and in the resulting set McIntosh went in again, off Gaskell’s pass this time.

After a poor kick by Martin gave Giants a seven-tackle set, they edged two scores clear through a Sezer penalty just before the interval.

The penalties, having been 10-4 in Giants’ favour when Handley was banished, finished 10-9.

Both teams had the tackle count restarted five times.

Rhinos also came out of the game with a major injury concern, substitute James Donaldson being taken off on a stretcher after a long stoppage in the third quarter.

Super League champions St Helens eased their way back into the season with a resounding 34-6 win over a disappointing Catalans Dragons in the opening game of the behind-closed-doors double header.