Leeds Rhinos 18 Huddersfield Giants 12: Rhinos dig deep to triumph on Rob Burrow’s special night
A DOMINANT performance in the third quarter earned Leeds Rhinos’ below-strength side a precious 18-12 win over Huddersfield Giants at Emerald Headingley last night.
The hosts led 10-4 after a dull, evenly-matched first half, but were by far the better team in the second period and won more comfortably than the six-point margin suggests.
Leeds were 18-4 up going into the final seven minutes, but conceded two tries after being reduced to 12 men by the sin-binning of Zane Tetevano.
It finished three tries each, but Leeds sensibly took a couple of penalties in the second half.
Will Pryce failed to convert Giants’ first two tries and they didn’t take a kick after their last score, which came with 15 seconds left.
In the circumstances it was a very good win for Rhinos, but not a game packed with highlights and the most memorable events happened before kick-off when guest of honour Rob Burrow and his wife Lindsey made a brief appearance at pitchside – to an incredible ovation – and then their children Macy, Maya and Jackson delivered the match ball.
After the game the Leeds team – and players who didn’t feature – gathered in front of a South Stand fans’ banner honouring Burrow, which was a nice moment.
Effort wasn’t lacking from either team, but both looked a), weary and b) as though they were missing a host of senior players, in key positions.
Rhinos were without 11 who’d be in or around the side if fit and available and Huddersfield had at least eight unavailable, including half-back Aidan Sezer who will join Leeds next year.
Giants were poor and rarely threatened and, for the most part, when they did apply pressure – mainly on the back of late penalties – Leeds’ defence stood up well.
The deadlock was broken on 17 minutes when Callum McLelland dummied past Oliver Wilson into open space, drew the full-back and timed his pass nicely to send Ash Handley over.
It was only McLelland’s fourth appearance of the season after ankle and groin injuries and then a concussion.
He is out of contract at the end of this season so needs to impress and that was an indication of what he is capable of.
McLelland had his best game for Leeds, kicking and passing well and almost getting over the line on a couple of occasions.
Rhinos coach Richard Agar has confirmed he’d like to keep the 21-year-old, but he is also being linked with his hometown – and former – club Castleford Tigers.
The lead did not last long. Handley was shoved into touch after catching a kick on the bounce and in the set from the turnover, Leroy Cudjoe’s pass deflected off a Rhinos hand and was touched down by Pryce, though he couldn’t add the extras.
Pryce was one of three sons of fathers who played in Super League on duty last night, alongside Leeds’ O’Connor and Morgan Gannon.
Gannon was the official man of the match, a reward for some strong running, especially in the second half.
The try which gave Leeds a four-point interval lead was a scrappy one.
Lui, who has been very good since his return (s) from injury, dabbed a low kick behind the Giants defence.
Sam Walters – in the centre position, while Harry Newman was temporarily off the field for a head injury assessment – over-ran it, but the ball was hacked on by Luke Briscoe and Myler reacted quickly to touch down.
Myler had got over the line from Lui’s pass a few minutes earlier, but couldn’t ground the ball and was shoved into touch.
With Rhyse Martin suspended and Luke Gale on the injury list, Handley took over goal kicking duties missing with his first attempt, but converting full-back Myler’s try from tight to the right touchline.
Giants gave Leeds an opportunity to attack at the start of the second half, through a couple of knock-ons, six-again, drop out and two penalties.
Rhinos took the two from the second of those, through Newman with his first goal for the club.
Myler was held up a second time, with former Rhinos full-back Ashton Golding under him, before Newman added a second penalty goal on 56 minutes, following an obstruction on Lui as he chased McLelland’s low kick.
Rhinos scored their third try on the hour, from some good rugby all round. Tom Briscoe, on the wing having started at centre, made an excellent catch near Leeds’ line and a half-break, then at the end of that set Lui ran a superb line on to a perfectly-timed pass from ex-Giant Leeming.
Leeming’s form, both at hooker and when he has had to fill in as a half-back, has been a shining light since Leeds returned from their Covid lay-off.
Sam Wood got over for an unconverted consolation try in the set after Tetevano’s departure and in the final seconds Owen Trout, a former Leeds player, touched down from Wood’s kick after a break by Cudjoe.
Last night’s referee Ben Thaler was the official who sent-off Tetevano during Rhinos’ Challenge Cup defeat by St Helens early in the season.
Handley took a knock early on and went off not long after Newman’s 46th minute penalty, which will be a concern with a short turnaround to Wednesday’s game at Wigan Warriors.
Cameron Smith was this week’s surprise absentee, having contracted Covid.
The loose-forward has been one of Rhinos’ form players since returning last month from a hamstring injury and a likely three-week layoff is another blow.