Leeds Rhinos 20 Huddersfield Giants 20: No golden finale as points are shared

AN INCREDIBLY dramatic game at Headingley last night ended all square, only the second time a Betfred Super League game has been drawn after going into golden-point extra-time.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 14th April 2022, 11:07 pm

Leeds will be the more disappointed team, having produced a much-improved performance and led by 10 points going into the final two minutes.

They seemed on the verge of only their second win of the season, but Giants – incredibly – scored back-to-back tries to level the scores at 20-20 and Tui Lolohea could have won it with the final kick of the 80, but his touchline conversion attempt was just wide.

Fages and Blake Austin failed with drop goal attempts in the first five-minute period of extra-time and Kruise Leeming did the same in the second, then Austin missed with the final kick of the match.

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Rhyse Martin scores Leeds Rhinos' second try. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Backing up just five days after their Betfred Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Hull FC, Giants weren’t on top of their game, but Leeds played with a great deal of energy and more confidence than in recent weeks and, for the most part, their goal line defence, under heavy pressure, was very good.

Having gone behind early on, Rhinos hit back to lead 12-4 at half-time, which was a fair reflection of the opening period and, until the last two minutes, they looked like deserved winners.

Blake Austin had a much better game for Rhinos and it was James Bentley’s best performance since joining them.

Liam Sutcilffe and Rhyse Martin also made big contributions, but it was a team effort from Leeds and there were signs interim-boss Jamie Jones-Buchanan might be getting his message across.

Rhyse Martin celebrates his try. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Huddersfield started both halves well and caused Leeds problems at times with their offloads.

Tui Lolohea was a big threat, Ricky Leutele had a strong game in the left-centre and, having scored four tries to three, they will probably feel they merited both points.

Former Leeds man Lolohea missed with an early penalty attempt, but set-up Giants’ opening try in the set from the restart, sucking in Leeds’ left-side defence and then sending Jermaine McGillvary through a huge gap.

Leeds’ response to that setback was very good. Ash Handley made a big break through the middle, a penalty kept Rhinos on the front foot and Sutcliffe finished superbly from Leeming’s pass, being half-stopped, but managed to maintain momentum and stretch over for a try which Martin improved.

Liam Tindall is chased down by Matty English and Chris McQueen. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Remarkably, those points were the first Leeds had scored before half-time in four home matches and it was also the first time they had been in front under interim-boss Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

Ricky Leutele almost restored Giants’ lead with a surging run down the left, but Jack Walker and Tom Briscoe – in his 200th game for Leeds and 300th Super League appearance –kept him out.

On 26 minutes Rhinos, with the entire South Stand yelling ‘two’ – tapped a penalty in front of the posts, following a ball steal.

It paid off as Martin cut through from an excellent pass by Austin. His conversion attempt, though, bounced away off a post to leave Rhinos only six points ahead.

Soon after that, Leeds had to reshuffle when Walker was hurt on a kick return. Sutcliffe went to full-back and Leeming moved into the halves, with Brad Dwyer coming off the bench at hooker. In the final minute of the half, after Giants had been applying some pressure, Joe Greenwood, who had a spell on loan at Rhinos two years ago without playing a game, went high on Bentley and Martin kicked the penalty from 40 metres.

The second-rower booted Leeds further ahead in similar fashion 10 minutes into the second half following another high tackle on Bentley.

That came after a spell of Huddersfield pressure, including a line drop out, which ended when Innes Senior was shoved into touch a few metres away from the hosts’ line.

Leutele looked the Giants player most likely to get them back into the game and so it proved on 53 minutes when, after several near-misses, he got over from an outstanding offload by Jack Cogger.

Lolohea cut the gap further with a touchline conversion, but the vital next try went to the home team. Giants shot themselves in the foot by conceding a penalty on the last and teenager Morgan Gannon – whose father Jim is a former Huddersfield player – blasted over for a powerful finish which Martin converted to make the gap 10 points going into the final quarter.

It looked like he had been held up, but the 18-year-old did remarkably well to get the ball down.

Leeds held on to their two-score advantage until a couple of minutes from time, but Luke Yates scored a scrambled try, which Lolohea converted, then Leeds were penalised from the restart and Senior produced a sensational finish at the corner after good hands across the line created some space, sending the tie into extra-time.

Alex Mellor’s inclusion at centre in place of Jack Broadbent was the only change to Rhinos’ starting line-up from the defeat by St Helens two weeks ago. Broadbent is out of contract at the end of this season and the decision to go with a specialist second-rower instead will raise questions over his future at the club.

There could, though, be a way back for Broadbent at Castleford Tigers on Monday, if Walker fails to recover from his injury.