Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith makes 'messy' observation after 'hard to take' loss to Hull KR

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Boss Rohan Smith admitted Leeds Rhinos let themselves down in Friday’s 19-18 golden-point loss to visitors Hull KR.

A Headingley crowd of 13,728 saw Brad Schneider’s 83rd minute drop goal end Rhinos’ three-match losing run and Smith reflected: “Any golden-point loss is hard to take because you know you’ve gone the distance, but not got the job done.”

Rhinos were second-best in the opening period and trailed by six points at the break, but dominated much of the second 40.

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“I thought on a difficult night conditions-wise, we let ourselves down with a couple of their tries early in the game,” was Smith’s assessment.

Corey Johnson scored his first try for Rhinos, but that wasn't enough to save them from defeat by Hull KR. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Corey Johnson scored his first try for Rhinos, but that wasn't enough to save them from defeat by Hull KR. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Corey Johnson scored his first try for Rhinos, but that wasn't enough to save them from defeat by Hull KR. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I didn’t think we were in any trouble defensively, but we had one poor play and that hurt us a couple of times.

“They didn’t score in the second half and we kept creating opportunities to win it, but we let ourselves down with some possession skills throughout the game.

“In the first half it was probably a couple of over-play errors that hurt us, then in the second it was mess around the play-the-ball that hurt us.”

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Crucially, Justin Sangare was ruled to have played the ball incorrectly in the final seconds of normal time, close to Hull KR’s posts, denying Leeds a last-gasp opportunity to attempt a one-pointer.

Ash Handley's 100th Super League try, converted by Rhyse Martin, levelled the scores in the third quarter, but Rhinos were unable to find a winner agianst Hull KR.Ash Handley's 100th Super League try, converted by Rhyse Martin, levelled the scores in the third quarter, but Rhinos were unable to find a winner agianst Hull KR.
Ash Handley's 100th Super League try, converted by Rhyse Martin, levelled the scores in the third quarter, but Rhinos were unable to find a winner agianst Hull KR.

Smith insisted he was “not complaining” or criticising referee Tom Grant, but identified untidy rucks as a significant problem in the competition.

“There’s that many [play the balls] that are messy,” he said. “There’s a reluctance when the game’s on the line, nobody wants to give a penalty there.

“I actually don’t know whether that one should have been a penalty or if it was just an untidy play-the-ball, but there’s a lot of untidy play-the-balls - there has been all year, in every game I’ve watched.

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“It must be difficult to adjudicate on that because it’s messy and ugly, whereas in other games I watch in other competitions it is much clearer about is it a knock-on, is it a penalty? It is much easier.”

Brad Schneider's golden-point drop goal earned Hull KR a 19-18 win to leave Rhinos shattered. Picture by Bruce RollinsonBrad Schneider's golden-point drop goal earned Hull KR a 19-18 win to leave Rhinos shattered. Picture by Bruce Rollinson
Brad Schneider's golden-point drop goal earned Hull KR a 19-18 win to leave Rhinos shattered. Picture by Bruce Rollinson

Of what could be done to eradicate that, Smith said: “Penalise indiscretions without fear of racking up the penalty count.

“That’s the easy way because then defenders stop doing things because they will be worried about getting penalised. At the moment there’s a tendency that you just keep doing it and they won’t keep blowing them.”

Smith stressed: “I am generalising about the season, I am not complaining about tonight. We had chances to win, I thought we competed hard and had the better of the energy battle, but we didn’t execute and that was the reason why we didn’t win.”

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Peter Smith's Leeds Rhinos player ratings and match report from extra-time loss ...

Smith reckoned it was a game his men “should have” won and he reflected: “I am not sure who the best team was.

“They got the points, but I thought we had the better of the play generally. The last four-week block I have been really proud of the effort and intent to get things back on track.

“We competed hard tonight, all the way to the end. We were attacking with our defence and had the better of the energy battle, we just let ourselves down with a bit of execution.”

Rhyse Martin’s conversion of Ash Handley’s 100th Super League try, in the winger’s 200th career game, levelled the scores with 27 minutes still to play, but Rhinos were unable to attempt a one-pointer.

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Smith said: “We had several moments where we could have had a go at one. We had one chance, maybe, that would have been a 35-37-metre drop goal, where we kicked it high.

“Everyone thinks ‘just kick a field goal because it’s that easy’. I would say the best field goal kickers in the game would be way less than 50 per cent success rate and the further you go back, the worse the percentage - when you are under pressure and it’s the only option.

“When you just add one because you can, they are easy to kick. We made a couple of errors where we could have kicked one and a couple of decision-making errors where we could have kicked one.”

Rhinos had not lost in golden-point before this season, but Friday was their second such defeat in three home games, following the 13-12 setback against St Helens in May.

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Smith insisted: “There’ll never be two scenarios the same, but we need to have a look at it, because we missed some opportunities, perhaps, in that St Helens game as well.”

Rhinos don’t have a fixture next weekend, when Super League pauses for the Betfred Challenge Cup semi-finals and return to action at St Helens on Friday, July 28.

“I think we are playing pretty well,” the coach added. “Once we were out of the Cup we knew the break was coming so we don’t see it as a good time or a bad time, it is just what it is. We will take a few days to freshen up and then build up to play away at St Helens.”