IT LOOKED like a gamble when Leeds Rhinos opted to release hooker Matt Parcell to their relegation rivals Hull KR and it backfired on them last night.
The Australian, a member of the 2017 Super League Dream Team, scored the opening try as Rovers won 32-16 at Emerald Headingley to move level on points with Leeds - though they remain 11th with Rhinos dropping a place to 10th.
Parcell was cheered by the South Stand when he left the field for a concussion assessment in the final few minutes, which was an indication of their thoughts on the decision to let him go.
Rovers were rampant in the opening stages and should have been further than 14-0 ahead, but Leeds hit back strongly to cut the deficit to six points at the interval.
At that stage the result was in the balance, but Rhinos were blitzed again at the start of the second half and this time there was no coming back, though they did score a couple of consolation tries.
Rovers were twice as good on the scoreboard and that was a fair reflection of the contest.
It was Danny McGuire’s final game at Headingley and his 400th Super League game and he was influential in Rovers’ win.Peter Smith
Hull KR have been in a pattern of win followed by loss since Tony Smith took over as coach so were due a victory.
They were very impressive, spirited, fast and clinical - but it was a dire effort from Rhinos who had won their previous two.
It was Danny McGuire’s final game at Headingley and his 400th Super League game and he was influential in Rovers’ win.
McGuire’s name was chanted by the South Stand at the end of the game which was a fitting tribute to one of Leeds’ all-time greats.
All six former Leeds men played well, Josh Drinkwater and Adam Quinlan also caused Rhinos problems and their bigger pack was dominant.
Rhinos – who gave a second debut to Shaun Lunt, brought in from Rovers in exchange for Parcell – would have been four points clear of the drop and very nearly safe had they won, but are back in trouble and will stay there if they continue playing like this.
On top of their poor tackling effort they made far too many errors with the ball, though Rovers deserve credit for their strong defence.
A knock-on by Brad Dwyer in the opening set of the game set the tone and though Rovers wasted that opportunity when Quinlan hurled a pass into touch, Hull KR carved Leeds defence open with ominous ease after just five minutes.
Ben Crooks looked sure to score from Jimmy Keinhorst’s pass, but Ash Handley stepped up to the mark with a brilliant tackle to slide the winger into touch before he could stretch over the line.
That only delayed the inevitable though as it set the pattern for a blistering early onslaught by the East Yorkshire team who repeatedly broke through a floundering Rhinos defence which - after being so solid a week earlier at Castleford - reverted back to its early-season fragility.
Referee Robert Hicks upset both teams in turn, awarding four of the first five penalties to Rovers and then the next five the other way.
Back-to-back penalties led to the opening try, Parcell scooting over from acting-half after seven minutes.
Smart money would have been on him as first try scorer, but it was the sort of soft touchdown Leeds conceded regularly earlier in the campaign and seemed to have eliminated from their game.
Rovers split the hosts again in the next set when Keinhorst sent Luis Johnson into a huge gap, but Handley and Jack Walker got back to make the tackle.
Craig Hall didn’t manage to convert Parcell’s try and then hit a post with a long-range penalty attempt.
After 17 minutes, Tom Briscoe was ruled to have knocked on and following the scrum Drinkwater and Quinlan combined down the left to send Kane Linnett over for the first of nhis double.
In the next set, Rovers, who were visibly growing in confidence, broke through the home defence yet again and some lovely handling, involving Crooks, McGuire and Keinhorst, ended with Quinlan going over for their third try.
Drinkwater took over kicking duties, after Hall’s three misses and landed the extras to leave the Robins in total command.
Rhinos weren’t in the game for the opening 24 minutes, but back-to-back penalties established a bridgehead and Dwyer squared the ledger in the battle of the hookers when he darted over off a one-two with Brett Ferres, who had come off the bench to play at prop.
Brad Singleton missed out due to suspension and Leeds went without a specialist front-rower on the bench. Rhinos received two more penalties in the set from the restart and Liam Sutcliffe finished strongly to cut the gap further.
Like Hall, Sutcliffe had put his boots on the wrong feet and both the touchdowns were unconverted.
Five minutes before the break Crooks dropped Richie Myler’s kick, but Konrad Hurrell knocked on from the scrum, Parcell hacked ahead several times, but was halted just short by Rhyse Martin, before being held up over the line later in the set.
Rhinos had enough late pressure to have gone in with the scores all square, but a strong defensive effort kept them out and the visitors deserved their lead.
The gap was increased to two scores at the start of the second half when Dwyer turned attack into defence by passing to Harvey Livett and then Trent Merrin was penalised for interference on Weller Hauraki and Hall took the two.
Moments later, Rovers forced a drop out and from that a hefty charge by Mitch Garbutt, another of their Leeds cast-offs, set up the field position for Livett to stretch over off McGuire’s pass.
Joel Tomkins was pulled down just short of the line before Leeds gave themselves faint hope with a well-worked touchdown, Hurrell getting over at the corner from Rob Lui’s pass.
Martin, who made his first start after his debut off the bench at Castleford last week, couldn’t convert from the touchline.
Martin bagged his first Super League try with nine minutes left, from Lui’s pass after Adam Cuthbertson had snatched possession, but was again off target with his, simpler, kick.
The gap was down to 10, but that would have flattered Leeds. In the next set Harry Newman made a break, but passed into touch when he had Martin in support on his inside.
That was the game. Hall booted a penalty four minutes from time and then stuck the knife in with a try direct from Leeds’ attempt to regain possession from a short restart, Crooks making the catch and Chris Atkin also being involved.
The 20 penalties were shared.
West Yorkshire Police won the Emergency Services Cup by beating West Yorkshire Fire Service 8-6 in the curtain-raiser.
Jon McCloud scored Police’s try, Lewis Ainley converting and adding a penalty before Fire’s David Tomney cfossed and Carl Shuttleworth added the extras.