LEEDS RHINOS suffered their first home loss to Salford Red Devils in 10 years and 13 meetings when they were beaten 20-12 in their penultimate game of the season.
Here are five talking points.
1: It is not difficult to pinpoint where Rhinos went wrong. The effort was good, particularly in the second half and Leeds defended well, but they made too many mistakes, took bad options and finished sets poorly. Their kicking game lacked threat and they didn’t ask enough questions of Salford’s solid defence.
It is all fixable, but coach Richard Agar has some work to do in pre-season.
2: Agar is set to be confirmed as full-time coach, one a rolling one-year contract, today. He deserves the opportunity.
Leeds may be a long way short of contending for honours, but are in a lot better shape than when Agar took interim charge in May.
The way they defended seven consecutive sets on their own line in the second half was proof of that. Rhinos have won half of their 12 matches since June. That’s not a spectacular record, but a significant improvement and they would be fifth on a form table over that period, behind Wigan, St Helens, Salford and Castleford.
3: Ava Seumanufagai has been an excellent signing. He was a deserved man of the match against Salford and has provided the go-forward Leeds were lacking before he joined them in May.
They looked far less effective when he was off the field.
4: Stevie Ward and Jamie Jones-Buchanan both impressed on their comeback from long-term injury. Ward played 58 minutes straight after coming off the bench and Jones-Buchanan turned in two strong spells, scoring Rhinos’ second try.
Jones-Buchanan has been one of the club’s greatest-ever servants and deserves a rousing farewell this week. Ward is a huge talent and can be a player Leeds build their team around for the next decade, if he avoids more serious injuries.
5: Rhinos’ player of the year will be named tonight. For what it’s worth, this writer’s top-three would be: 3, Brad Dwyer, 2, Trent Merrin, 1 Ash Handley.