Leeds Rhinos 38 Salford Red Devils 16 - Kruise Leeming shines as Leeds ease past Salford

A TERRIFIC individual performance from Kruise Leeming was the highlight of Leeds Rhinos’ 38-16 win over Salford Red Devils last night.

Between the sticks: Rhinos' Callum McLelland goes over to score agaionst Salford. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Between the sticks: Rhinos' Callum McLelland goes over to score agaionst Salford. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

A TERRIFIC individual performance from Kruise Leeming was the highlight of Leeds Rhinos’ 38-16 win over Salford Red Devils last night.

Leeming is in a rich vein of form and has clearly benefited from his experience in both the England and Combined Nations camps earlier this season.

Starting at hooker, from where he scored a brace of tries, he finished last night’s game in the halves, following the loss of Sutcliffe to a head injury which will keep him out of next Thursday’s trip to Hull.

Deal me in: Matt Prior celebrates his new Leeds contract with a try. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

With their biggest crowd for 16 months – 10,515 – roaring them on, Leeds never looked in any danger of losing, but it was an untidy contest.

Salford should have scored first, but rarely had a look in before the break, Rhinos dominating once they had grabbed the opening try.

Their 20-0 half-time advantage was a fair reflection.

Salford pulled four points back early in the second period, but – having tested referee Ben Thaler’s patience up to that point – then shot themselves in the foot with two yellow cards in as many minutes, handing all the momentum back to Leeds.

Up and running: Leeds' Harry Newman celebrates scoring the opening try. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The second 40 minutes was low-quality, but – particularly considering the influential players they had missing – it was a good win for Rhinos who managed to outscore the opposition after the break for the first time in four games, if only just.

The pre-match talking point was the absence of Rhinos captain and half-back Luke Gale, which was understood to be a selection decision.

Callum McLelland started alongside Sutcliffe in the halves, which was obviously an opportunity for the 21-year-old, who is out of contract at the end of this season and being linked with his hometown club Castleford Tigers, where he had a previous spell in the academy.

He needs to do more to control a game, but scored a try and will benefit from the start and game time, having made a brief return from injury last week.

Double up: Kruise Leeming scored two tries for Leeds. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Tom Holroyd dropped out after rolling an ankle and with Mikolaj Oledzki – who had been named in the initial squad – and Zane Tetevano both still missing, Rhinos were well below strength in the middle of the field.

That made it a big night for King Vuniyayawa who got his first start at the elite level, after five NRL appearances and nine for Leeds all as a substitute.

He is another one playing for a contract and stood up well, scoring one of Rhinos’ second half tries after going close a couple of times. There was also a decent contribution from substitute Cameron Smith and Rhyse Martin in the second-row.

Krisnan Inu dropped ex-Rhino Tui Lolohea’s kick over the line after just four minutes and the hosts made the most of that stroke of fortune to storm into a 12-0 lead after as many minutes.

It was Harry Newman’s first game at Headingley since last August and it took him only seven minutes to mark it with a spectacular try. Jarrod O’Connor, Sutcliffe, Newman and Ash Handley worked the ball to Alex Mellor who turned the ball back inside to send the centre over.

Moments later, Leeming began and finished the move for Leeds’ second try, initially supplying Sutcliffe and then accepting Handley’s pass to roll over after being ankle-tapped just short.

Sutcliffe was held up over the whitewash before Martin extended the lead on 23 minutes with a long-range penalty after a foul by Seb Ikahihifo on Smith.

Leeming doubled up nine minutes before the break, darting over after Richie Myler did well to get the ball away following passes by Smith and McLelland.

With Martin booting his fourth goal, Leeds had lots of credit in the bank at half-time, but Salford scored first after the interval when Ken Sio dived over from Morgan Escare’s pass, The game then degenerated.

First, Lolohea was penalised for dissent, refused to take the hint and was sin-binned. Seconds later, Salford were penalised again in front of their own posts, Seb Ikahihifo seemed intent on trying to start a punch-up – getting up into Leeds’ faces – and he was also shown a yellow card.

Remarkably, it was the third time in Leeds’ last six games one of the teams was reduced to 11 men for a spell, the same thing having happened to Salford in the meeting four weeks ago and Rhinos against Warrington Wolves. Rhinos scored two tries while Salford were two men down. McLelland grabbed the first, swooping over after Smith’s pass had been knocked down by a defender; then big forward Vuniyayawa – who looked like he fancied a touchdown – burst through a big gap in the middle of the field.

Lolohea was in for Salford’s second touchdown within moments of his return and it was a belter.

Sio counter-attacked on a kick return and though Handley chased him down, he managed to put boot to ball and Lolohea ran on to score, Inu adding the extras from the touchline.

Myler showed how much he has grown into the full-back role with a brilliant try-saving tackle on Escare.

Prior crawled over for Rhinos’ final try – Martin maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot but they finished with 12 men following the sin-binning of Myler after he failed to prevent Inu scoring a late try, which he also converted.

The penalty count finished 10-9 to Leeds (5-4 in the first half) and Salford had five six-agains to Leeds’ four.