Leeds Rhinos' Alex Mellor backs Warrington Wolves rival over high tackle

Forward Alex Mellor has spoken up for opponent Ben Murdoch-Masila after being felled by a tackle across the face in Leeds Rhinos’ 36-0 demolition of Warrington Wolves.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 1st March 2020, 12:02 pm

Murdoch-Masila was sin-binned following the second half challenge and Mellor wore a head bandage after the game, but the Leeds man insisted it wasn’t a sending-off offence.

“He didn’t mean to do it,” Mellor said of Murdoch-Masila. “I spoke to him about it, I just slipped and unfortunately he didn’t miss me.

“He got me clean on the jaw so it was a pretty sore one, but it’s rugby league - it’s part and parcel. There was no malice in it.”

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Luke Gale on the ball against Warrington. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Mellor confirmed he expects to be available for Thursday’s visit of Toronto Wolfpack, adding: “I’m good, there’s no concussion, just a bit of a sore jaw so I’ll be all right.”

Despite the whack across the chops, Mellor played the full game, in what he rated as an “unbelievable” team performance, making 35 tackles - second in the Leeds team behind Brad Dwyer - and 11 carries. He said: “That’s me, that’s my game. That’s what I want to be doing, the long graft and sticking in. Some people are sort of like 20-minute impact players, explosive - I am more of a duration player. It suits me playing that. It’s what I want to be doing and collectively I think we put a phenomenal 80 minutes together.”

The mood in Rhinos’ camp was upbeat before the game, on the back of wins over Hull KR and Salford Red Devils. Mellor said: “We were quietly confident, we didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops. I think we got written off a little bit, our performance wasn’t too good against Salford. I know we scraped a win, but our performance wasn’t good. We had some honest chats during the week, sort of ‘you go away and think about it, we need to sort this out’ and what a way to respond that is.

“That’s three [wins] on the bounce now and it was mentioned we hadn’t done that for a couple of years so it’s a good achievement and we need to kick on.”

Alex Mellor. Picture by Steve Riding.

The challenge for Rhinos now is to live up to last Friday’s standard, but not get carried away.

“Complacency can be a demon,” Mellor warned. “But you have got to look back on the good times and take the positives from it because we were unbelievable [on Friday].

“The performance we put together to nil Warrington and put 36 points on them, against a team that’s littered with superstars, we’ve got to take some positives from that. That is the benchmark for us now, to kick start and go on again.”

Rhinos have not conceded a point in their last three halves of rugby and defended like the result was on the line when Warrington had a set in Leeds’ 20 in the final minute. Mellor noted: “That’s the character of this team, you can’t coach that - that’s not something you go through in training.

“You don’t sit and speak about it, it’s the lads wanting to play for each other and give absolutely everything they’ve got for the bloke at the side of them. I’ve not felt that as much as I did on Friday in any other game in my career. The will to defend for each other, when something went wrong the other 12 blokes put it right. To be part of something like that is special.”

Mellor has started the last three games after making his debut off the bench.

He reflected: “I am happy,” I wasn’t too happy after the Salford game, I set really high standards for myself and I was a little bit down.

“I know that, but I am happy with how I bounced back. I set a couple of targets for myself in defence and I stuck to them. I thought Luke Gale at the side of me, he had a couple of big blokes coming at him and the way he defended was unbelievable. I take my hat off to him. He’s only a small bloke, but he throws his body about and doesn’t half get stuck in. I give him a massive rap for how he played.”