Leeds Rhinos 18 Hull FC 22: Late try ends long unbeaten home run in Super League thriller
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Rhinos showed more intent than in the round one defeat at Warrington Wolves, but it still wasn’t good enough.
On the positive side, their the forwards ran with greater purpose. Tom Holroyd put in two good shifts, Sam Lisone offered more impact off the bench than when starting the previous week and substitute Justin Sangare made a real difference.
But Rhinos lost the game because their attack was toothless in the first half and when it improved significantly after the break, they let Hull off the hook too often.
Leeds twice messed up gilt-edged opportunities on their left side when they trailed 16-12. They finally managed to get their noses in front, but an error - one of many - gifted Hull an opportunity to pull the game from the fire with six minutes left.
In front of an excellent crowd of more than 16,000, there were positive signs after the interval, but Leeds’ attack needs to be much better and they have to be stronger defensively under pressure.
Leeds led twice and did well to come back from 10 points down early in the second half, but this was one that got away. Without them playing well, it was game they should have won.
After 13 minutes David Fusitu’a spilled Jake Clifford’s high kick, Leeds were caught offside in front of their posts following the scrum and in the resulting set Clifford’s pass put Cam Scott in for an unconverted try.
Leeds were in front within seven minutes. Cameron Smith, promoted from the bench into the loose-forward role, took the ball at first receiver 20 metres out, shrugged off Joe Lovodua and stretched out an arm to touch down. Rhyse Martin added the extras.
Hull centre Liam Sutcliffe grabbed a try against his former club soon afterwards, again Clifford providing the final pass and then adding the extras from wide out. Sutcliffe played well, but went off late in the game.
Hull had a try ruled out moments later, thanks to alert touch judge Mark Craven. Referee Jack Smith, who was right on the spot, was ready to give the green light when Kane Evans crashed over and sent the decision upstairs as a try after Craven raised a doubt. Video official Marcus Griffiths spotted a knock-on.
That all came from a penalty against Austin for a dangerous tackle in an incident which led to Morgan Gannon going off for a head injury assessment. He didn’t return and will miss next week’s game at St Helens.
In the final moments of the half, Aidan Sezer landed a 40-20 but Leeds couldn’t break down Hull’s impressive line defence.
Leeds held Joe Lovodua up over the line in the opening moments of the second half before debutant Nene Macdonald made a terrific break, but lost the ball in contact.
Eight minutes in only a wicked bounce denied Blake Austin a 40-20; the ball stayed in play and Hull countered as Josh Griffin split Leeds open through the middle and Adam Swift was in support to cross for a try which Clifford improved.
Sangare was held back until 52 minutes and made an almost immediate impact with a strong run and nice offload to send Leeming over.
Martin converted, but Rhinos then butchered two golden chances. First, Smith made a clean break with support on both sides, but his pass outside was intercepted by Scott.
Then Handley blasted clear to create a two on one and there was nothing wrong with his pass, but Austin dropped it.
With 10 left Rhinos finally got over through Fusitu’a, who took Sezer’s pass and cut inside past Swift. Martin landed the kick to edge Leeds ahead.
They should have been good enough to hold on, but weren’t. Macdonald, who otherwise had a decent game considering his long layoff, lost the ball in Leeds’ half and that gave Hull the chance to snatch victory when Scott Taylor rolled over from close range and Clifford added his third goal.
There was some late pressure, but Leeds lacked the know-how to pull the game from the fire. Rhinos received five penalties to Hull’s four and the set restarts were four-two in their favour.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Fusitu’a, Macdonald, Handley, Olpherts, Austin, Sezer, Tetevano, Leeming, Holroyd, Gannon, Martin, Smith. Subs Sangare, Donaldson, O’Connor, Lisone.
Hull FC: Hoy, Swift, Sutcliffe, Scott, McIntosh, McNamara, Clifford, Fash, Dwyer, Taylor, Lane, Griffin, Lovodua. Subs Houghton, Satae, Cator, Evans.
Referee: Jack Smith (Wigan). Attendance: 16,140.