Leeds Rhinos' King Vuniyayawa gutted by Hull defeat - but thrilled with first taste of real Headingley atmosphere

Great experience, disappointing result was how Leeds Rhinos forward King Vuniyayawa summed up the 18-12 defeat by Hull.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 4:45 am

The game two days ago was Vuniyayawa’s fifth for Rhinos, but his first in front of fans.

He felt Rhinos could have won, if they had been able to make more of some heavy pressure near Hull’s line in the second half.

It was Leeds’ sixth defeat from eight competitive games this season and they are ninth in Betfred Super League, two wins behind sixth-placed Castleford Tigers who they visit on Friday.

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Torrential rain struck at the end of Sunday's game. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.

Vuniyayawa admitted: “It was pretty disappointing, especially in front of the crowds coming back.”

He said: “It wasn’t really the performance we wanted to get out, but I guess we’ve just got to move on from it and see what we can do next.

“We kind of killed ourselves with our own errors, coming out in the second half we were pretty dominant the whole time, but our errors killed us.”

The World Cup hopeful reckons Rhinos could be pleased with their defence for most of the game and particularly after half-time, when they didn’t concede a point.

King Vuniyayawa. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“We really defended well, pinning them in their own half the whole time in the second half,” Vuniyayawa said.

“The defence was a big key for us, especially with their big middles and fast backs.

“We managed to muscle up and keep them out in the second half, which was good stuff from the boys.

“It’s just the attack - some of the calls were disappointing, but at the same time, our execution wasn’t the best.”

Vuniyayawa added: “That’s something we have been focused on, but with all the changes happening with the team we haven’t really had a solid 17 or even a solid 19.

“Week in and week out we’ll have a different 17, a different bench, people starting here and there, but I think now we are slowly starting to find our position in the team and we’ll see how we can improve and how we can execute our attack.”

Under coronavirus rules, Headingley was restricted to a 4,000 capacity, which will be the same for Rhinos’ next home game, against St Helens on June 11.

Even with the ground less than a quarter full, Vuniyayawa was thrilled by the atmosphere.

“Wow,” he said.

“It was unbelievable, as soon as I ran out there were goosebumps.

“The last time I played in front of a crowd was my NRL debut, which was round one last year.

“It [last Sunday] was crazy, they give us a boost, you want to play well for the fans.

“It was just amazing, I can’t wait to play in front of them again, the way the fans are - they cheer you on and the songs, what an experience for me.

“The boys were saying to me ‘that’s not even packed out, you want to wait until a Friday night when it’s full’.

“I can’t wait for that.

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