Leeds Rhinos 48 Leigh Centurions 18 - Four-try Jack Broadbent puts Centurions to the sword
THE RECORD books will suggest Leeds Rhinos’ 48-18 home win over bottom-of-the-table Leigh Centurions was routine, but in fact, it was rather memorable for several reasons – most notably youngster Jack Broadbent’s career-best four tries.
Leigh have yet to win this year and seem to be sliding inexorably towards relegation, but before the game it seemed Rhinos might be there for the taking.
It was their second game in five days – third in eight for three of their team – and they were without a dozen senior men through injury, suspension or because of Covid.
As a consequence, they had numerous players starting out of position, including a second-rower in the centres and hooker at half-back, but they went into the game on good form and continued that to record a third successive win.
Rob Lui came in at stand-off for his first game since last November and did really well, bringing good things out of players around him, most notably Rhyse Martin who played well in the centres.
Tom Holroyd, in only his second game of the season after injury, made a strong impact, as he did against Salford last Sunday, bringing the house down with a brilliant late try.
Despite Broadbent’s contribution, most praise had to go to Leeming and acting-captain Matt Prior who – along with Mikolaj Oledzki – were playing their third game in a week. Leeds see Leeming very much as a hooker, but it was his third game of the season in the halves and he was excellent, scoring one try and being involved in five others.
Prior is a machine. He put in a huge effort, over big minutes and underlined just how important he is to this team.
Though the opposition offered very little after their positive start, this was a really solid all-round team effort and an important victory.
Leigh got off to a flier, scoring very early and causing Leeds problems with their offloads, but a sin-binning proved costly and the hosts took charge of the game from that point.
They led by 18 points at the interval and would have been further in front if Martin had been able to land more than two conversions.
Leigh again scored first in the second half, but Leeds quickly reasserted their superiority and Martin found his kicking boots, converting all four tries.
Leigh were in front in the third minute, Matty Russell finishing spectacularly from Iain Thornley’s pass.
Ryan Brierley landed the first of his three goals and Leigh would have scored again on 12 minutes, again in a penalty set, but for a terrific tackle by Leeming on Joe Mellor.
But the visitors were temporarily reduced to 12 men when James Bell was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Oledzki, after 13 minutes and Leeds scored twice while he was off the field and again within seconds of his return.
First, James Donaldson powered over from Leeming’s pass out of acting-half and Martin – who had set up the field position with a superb clean break from inside his own half – added the extras.
Four minutes later, Lui was held up trying to barge over from acting-half, then Leeds moved the ball left and Brad Dwyer, Prior, Leeming and Liam Sutcliffe shifted the ball for winger Broadbent to go over.
That was a walk-in, but Broadbent’s next try, soon afterwards, took some scoring.
He seemed to have been held up over the line, from Sutcliffe’s pass, but showed tremendous strength and agility to get the ball down.
Broadbent has scored in three successive matches since moving to the left-wing. With Richie Myler injured, switching Broadbent to full-back was one option, but instead Sutcliffe took over as the last line of defence, on his return from a Covid layoff.
Morgan Gannon, Rhinos’ hugely promising 17-year-old, second-rower, made his first senior start and had an assist in the next try, on the half hour.
Leeming began and finished the move, initially teeing up Broadbent who linked with Gannon; his terrific pass sent Tom Briscoe – looking very assured at centre – into a gap and the half-back was in support to score.
Three minutes before the interval, Mullen knocked on near his own line and Rhinos grabbed their fifth try in the resulting set, Sutcliffe being the scorer this time, with a one-handed touchdown, after the defence appeared to have him wrapped up.
Martin added the extras to that one and 24-6 was a fair reflection of the opening period.
Gannon knocked on trying to stretch over at the start of the second period, but a close-range try by Mark Ioane, after four successive sets near Rhinos’ line, raised Leigh’s hopes.
Leeds blew a chance when Dwyer burst into open space with Broadbent in support, but the youngster dropped the pass.
He made amends, though, on 58 minutes with his hat-trick score, squeezing over at the corner from Tom Briscoe’s pass, after Leeming and the recalled Jarrod O’Connor had handled.
Soon afterwards, young substitute Sam Walters touched down from Leeming’s pass and - after Brierley had pulled a try back - Broadbent added his fourth touchdown and then Holroyd stepped through to put the icing on the cake.
Leeds received 10 penalties to Leigh’s four (four-two in the first half), but the six-agains went three-two to the visitors.