Leeds Rhinos 24 Wakefield Trinity 6: First win for Rohan Smith as Zak Hardaker and James Bentley impress

A third successive home win eased some of the pressure on Leeds Rhinos and heaped more misery on Wakefield Trinity who are now on a seven-game losing run.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 1:37 pm

It wasn’t a classic performance by any means - and Trinity were poor - but Leeds showed some promising signs and there were several very good individual contributions..

It looked like a game between the teams 10th and 11th in the table - scrappy, lot of errors and with both sides clearly lacking consistency.

A torrential downpour in the half hour before kick off - resulting in a slippery ball and very wet field - didn’t help matters, but Leeds were the better team, though they didn’t look comfortable until the final quarter of a 24-6 victory which lifted them five points clear of the Betfred Super League basement.

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James Bentley scores the opening try for Rhinos against Wakefield. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

In his first home fixture, Rhinos coach Rohan Smith switched things around from the defeat at Salford Red Devils five days earlier, particularly in the pivots.

Richie Myler was moved into the halves, Zak Hardaker to full-back and Rhyse Martin into the centres, all of which meant a return to hooker for Kruise Leeming.

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There was also a rare start for James Donaldson, while Morgan Gannon came back on the bench.

Blake Austin scores Rhinos' third try. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Jack Broadbent, who appears set to join Castleford Tigers next season, was dropped, along with Sam Walters and Brad Dwyer got only 10 minutes off the bench in the second half.

He is also being linked with a move, to St Helens, when his contract expires this autumn.

The changes worked, to an extent. Hardaker had a very strong game, his first as a Leeds player at Headingley since 2016 and Martin did well.

Rhinos look a better team when Leeming starts at acting-half and Austin, alongside Myler at stand-off, went well and deserved his try.

Tom Lineham is tackled by Mikolaj Oledzki and Cameron Smith. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Probably Leeds’ best was second-rower James Bentley, who scored a brace of tries, but also spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin late in the first half, which allowed Trinity back into the game after Rhinos had gone 12-0 up.

That was the former St Helens forward’s third card - a red and two yellows - in only his eighth game for Leeds and will presumably lead to suspension number three of the season.

Wakefield defended well, but weren’t very effective with the ball and the loss of Lee Gaskell, who failed a head injury assessment, was a blow.

They made too many errors and rarely threatened Rhinos’ defence, after missing a couple of early chances.

One of those came after just five minutes. Wakefield winger Tom Lineham, making his return from a long-term knee injury, got over Rhinos’ line, but the pass from Lee Gaskell - playing at full-back in Max Jowitt’s absence - was forward.

Gaskell then put up a towering kick which Zak Hardaker - with the setting sun in his eyes, spilled. Trinity should have scored directly from that, but Reece Lyne hurled his pass into touch.

If the pass had gone to Lineham, he would have scored, so there was an advantage to Wakefield and Leeds got the ball back.

Fortunate that may have been, but they made it count, surging upfield before Bentley went over for his first Rhinos try, from Cameron Smith’s offload, 10 minutes into the game.

Bentley also scored Leeds’ second try, this one coming in the set from a penalty after the ball was stolen from Sutcliffe.

Smith shifted the ball to Austin and the second-rower ran a nice line on to his pass. Rhyse Martin added the extras to both tries, but Bentley was temporarily banished moments after the second, 10 minutes before the break.

Thomas Minns, one of four former Leeds men in Wakefield’s 17, collected a high kick from Austin, but Bentley caught him high and the yellow card came out.

That was the first of five successive penalties for the visitors which played a part in turning the tide when Rhinos were gaining the upper hand.

Trinity pulled six points back while Rhinos were a man down, Jai Whitbread powering over from Jacob Miller’s pass - following a penalty in front of the posts - for a try which Mason Lino improved.

But they rarely looked like scoring again. Austin was well wide with a drop goal attempt in the final seconds of the half and the next points did not come until the 56th minute.

Wakefield had the better of the opening exchanges, until Jordan Crowther spilled a kick by Myler, the ball was picked up in an offside position and Martin took the two to make it 14-6.

The two score gap, at that stage, looked like being enough and Leeds dominated the final quarter, adding two more tries.

The first went to Austin, who raced over from Mikolaj Oledzki’s pass close to the line.

Winger David Fusitu’a made some strong carries throughout and was a big help to his forwards, without getting a sniff of a chance, until the final play of the game.

Austin supplied Martin, he slipped out a clever offload and Fusitu’a dived over for his first Headingley try to complete the scoring.

The penalty count finished 7-5 in Trinity’s favour.