Leeds Rhinos fans praise ref, hail Ash Handley and 'Sinfield-esque' Cameron Smith after Catalans Dragons win

The YEP’s fans jury are in much happier mood this week after seeing Leeds Rhinos tough out a precious home win against Catalans Dragons.
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Once again, there was praise for in-form winger Ash Handley’s try-scoring feats and Cameron Smith also caught our panel’s eye, but it was Rhinos’ defence which really impressed the fans. Referee Chris Kendall received a pat on the back for his handling of the game, but lack of size in the pack remains a concern.


Taking my best friend’s son Freddie to his first-ever Rhinos match, on a wet Saturday afternoon, I was hoping for a great game against Catalans Dragons and the right result and, overall, I couldn’t complain. He came away happy, wanting to come to more games and with plenty of signatures and photos with the players so they have made a very good impression on a young seven-year-old.

Ash Handley and Cameron Smith were praised by the YEP's fans jury after Leeds Rhinos' win against Catalans Dragons. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Ash Handley and Cameron Smith were praised by the YEP's fans jury after Leeds Rhinos' win against Catalans Dragons. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Ash Handley and Cameron Smith were praised by the YEP's fans jury after Leeds Rhinos' win against Catalans Dragons. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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The thing I think won us the match was our defence. The first half was mainly defending our line and in wet conditions we did a great job. Ash Handley is having a great start to the season, with another couple of tries including a cracker. Once the ball gets to him he has to run it over the line.

I liked the faster pace of the game and the fact the ref kept the game moving as much as possible. There were glimpses of a team that is starting to work well together and the morale of the team certainly seems good so far this year. Seeing the players in the Long Bar at the end of the game, they seemed happy and relaxed and enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to see what the next game brings at Leigh, but I’m rooting for another two points.


Well, that was better on Saturday. Leeds dug in and ground out a result with a few glimpses of quality from this new team. Brodie Croft has taken three games to start to show signs of what might be this season.

Brodie Croft on the attack for Leeds Rhinos against Catalans Dragons. Picture by Steve Riding.Brodie Croft on the attack for Leeds Rhinos against Catalans Dragons. Picture by Steve Riding.
Brodie Croft on the attack for Leeds Rhinos against Catalans Dragons. Picture by Steve Riding.

He generally moved around the park, gave Leeds direction and a couple of clever plays led to tries or chances. He really needs to continue this improvement to begin to boss games and have the impact we hope he can do.

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Andy Ackers, Matt Frawley and Lachie Miller still need to stand up more and impact the game better so we can see the best from our new one, six, seven and nine quartet. But the credit must go to those forwards who dug really deep at Headingley, despite being smaller than the formidable Catalans pack. They could have easily been overwhelmed, but they stood up and battled hard.

Cameron Smith, in particular, had a great 80 minutes, culminating with the pass of the game for the match-winning try. Going forward Leeds need to battle like that in the forwards each week. We all know we are one or two forwards light, but the ones we have need to stand up.


I’ve seen better and more entertaining games at Headingley, but wow, what a defensive effort. It’s an old adage that defence wins games and this was certainly true last Saturday afternoon. Over 100 tackles in the first 30 minutes set us up for a great win.

I don’t think there was a player that had a bad game, but special mention must go to our captain fantastic Cam Smith. He defended as if his life depended on it and produced a superb pass for one of Ash Handley’s tries.

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Special mention must also go to Justin Sangare who really stood up in a pack that was on the light side against a very big Catalans team. He’s turning into a valuable player. Our half-back pairing of Brodie Croft and Matt Frawley is really starting to click and Harry Newman produced some good moves and looks like he’s back to his best.

A really good attendance created a good atmosphere for a Saturday afternoon. The brandishing of yellow cards was once again the topic of conversation after the game, but I felt overall the referee did well and things are starting to settle down as the season goes on.

There were some well-taken tries with Leeds showing they have the ability to score from anywhere on the park. Handley’s try in the second half came from superb team play. The ability to control and manage the game is something we are doing well this year and it’s good to see.

Hopefully we can make Headingley a fortress this year and end up in at least the play-off places come the end of the season. I also want to mention Ryan Golding, our groundsman, who has done an excellent job on the pitch.


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While there was no need to panic after the Hull KR result, it was clear that improvement was needed across the board and the team responded brilliantly by producing a gritty victory against Catalans.

It is clear to see that this team is head and shoulders above where we were at this time last year and this type of performance demonstrates the difference in quality, especially in defence. To be under so much pressure in the first half and only concede two points is a credit to the club and to how much effort they have put in off the field to improve. This, matched with a clinical attack, meant it was going to be a good day at the office for the Rhinos.

With each passing game we are starting to see why we paid so much money for Brodie Croft. He was heavily involved with the first two tries, but also came up with some solid hits in defence when the team was under pressure, the highlight being the tackle in the first half which led to a knock on.

I know it is still early days, but it looks like we have a proper star on our hands and watching him feels like a reward for having to put up with Blake Austin for the past few years. Another shout out to Ash Handley, who extended his try scoring streak with two more phenomenal efforts. The second one especially was rugby league at its best.

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The off-the-cuff passing was quality, the pass from Cameron Smith was Sinfield-esque and Handley finished it off with what he does best. If we can replicate this on a regular basis, we might be in for a special season.

Looking ahead to the trip to Leigh on Friday, I am hoping we can push on and start stringing some consistent performances together, as this was our biggest downfall last year. Leigh will not be at full strength and - pending any suspensions/injuries to the team that played last weekend - I cannot see anything but a Leeds win.


Injuries, suspensions and facing the habitual Grand Final also-rans in the Catalan Dragons, the task for Leeds was potentially going to be tricky at Headingley last Saturday. Like some plants at this time of year, the Dragons seem to go dormant when temperatures fall below 50°F. Theo Fages was certainly slow to move when steamrollered by Brodie Croft, in what could be tackle-of-the-season so far. Croft has been sold to Leeds fans as a string-pulling flair player, but with hits like that …hard, fair and in the current climate, absolutely nothing the referee could do about it.

There was further confusion in the video refereeing bunker when Leeds’ first two tries were sent upstairs and the RFL’s ‘is it a try?’ flowchart ran out at ‘is it over the line?’ and ‘Is the

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scorer wearing cherry and white hoops?’ In the perplexity that followed, that rarest of beasts, an eight-point try - though Leeds only got six out of it - was awarded.

Catalans’ other principle tactic, wind up James Bentley, also failed miserably as the second-row former enfant terrible (I had to get some French in somehow) continues to mature. Leeds looked solid in defence and increasingly dangerous on attack

as the team starts to click. Let’s hope the good work continues as Leeds travel to Leigh, that lay-by just off the East Lancs Road, on Friday night.