Leeds Rhinos talking points: alien invasion, letting the side down, golden pointless and daily Arthur update

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Leeds Rhinos’ golden-point victory over London Broncos set a new standard, as possibly their worst winning performance of the Super League era.

The 17-16 result kept Leeds in the running for a top-six finish, but the way they played was a far cry from the 18-10 defeat of Leigh Leopards 15 days earlier and to those watching, it felt like a loss. Here’s five talking points.

1: Pod people.

In the classic science fiction tale Invasion of the Body Snatchers - filmed in 1956 and 1978, the original is better - malevolent aliens take over the Earth population, replacing them with pod people, identical copies who lack human emotion. Only subtle changes in behaviour give them away.

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Rhyse Martin's late try, which he also converted, sent Leeds Rhinos' game against London Broncos into extra-time. Picture by Jonathan GawthorpeRhyse Martin's late try, which he also converted, sent Leeds Rhinos' game against London Broncos into extra-time. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe
Rhyse Martin's late try, which he also converted, sent Leeds Rhinos' game against London Broncos into extra-time. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe

Did anyone see spacecraft hovering over Leeds before the latest close encounter? Most of the players on duty against London looked like the ones who faced Leigh, but their actions were very different. The gap between Rhinos’ best and worst performances is huge and it is impossible to predict from week to week what they’ll produce.

It’s all very well getting up for an emotional victory over in-form Leigh, in front of a big crowd paying tribute to Rob Burrow, but being able to play like that every week is what makes a champion team and at the moment, Rhinos are nowhere near. It is 13 months since they won three successive games and - particularly given this year’s favourable fixture list - that’s embarrassing for a club of Leeds’ stature.

2: Rohan out…oh!

Leeds’ display against London was as bad, if not worse, than the one at Hull FC three weeks earlier which cost then-coach Rohan Smith his job. So maybe he wasn’t to blame after all.

Paul Momirovski, left, celebrates with David Fusitu'a after scoring for Leeds Rhinos against London Broncos. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.Paul Momirovski, left, celebrates with David Fusitu'a after scoring for Leeds Rhinos against London Broncos. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Paul Momirovski, left, celebrates with David Fusitu'a after scoring for Leeds Rhinos against London Broncos. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

It’s always easiest to point the finger at the team boss, but the same players are still underperforming. As individuals, they are far better than team results have shown this season, but for some reason can’t maintain any level of consistency. It’s not a lack of effort, but they need to be smarter about how they do things sometimes.

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Disgruntled Leeds Rhinos fans slam performance, raise Rohan Smith issue, predict...

A new coach may be able to iron a few things out, but - for the rest of this season at least - he will be working with the existing group of players and they are the ones who have to take responsibility. At the moment, with one or two exceptions, they are a bit like the inflatable boy who took a pin to school - letting themselves and everybody else down.

3: Golden-pointless.

The London game was Rhinos’ first extra-time win since Kruise Leeming’s Magic Weekend drop goal against Hull in September, 2021. It was a strong argument against forcing a result if the sides can’t be separated in normal time.

The case for golden-point is it adds drama and excitement, but in this case 80 minutes was more than enough, for spectators and players alike. In an era when player welfare is paramount - and steps are being taken to reduce individuals’ time on the field - it makes no sense whatsoever. Injuries are more likely when players are tired. And, certainly close to the press area in the South Stand, fans actually left before extra-time began in last weekend’s match.

A draw would have been a fair result. Rhinos didn’t really deserve to win and London were worth at least a point. Usually, extra-time is ugly, with sides messing up a string of drop goal attempts before someone manages to knock one over, or a gap appears in tired defence. On this occasion, Leeds’ set up for Brodie Croft’s winning drop goal was near-perfect, so that was one positive.

4: Own goal.

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The fans leaving after 80 minutes may have been rushing away to watch England’s quarter-final against Switzerland in football’s European Championships, though it was shown live on the South Stand concourse.

Rhinos play at Warrington Wolves this Thursday, but there was no game on that day last week and five of the six top-flight fixtures clashed with - or nearly did - a match in the Euros. The crowd of 12,958 at AMT Headingley was a remarkable effort in the circumstances, but at times rugby league really makes things hard for itself.

5: Short-term gain.

The identity of Leeds’ next coach could be known this week. The most likely option is ex-Parramatta Eels boss Brad Arthur coming in on a short-term deal, until the end of this season.

Rhinos would like him for longer, but he is set to take charge of the new Perth side which is due to enter the NRL in 2026 and so wants to focus on that next year. If it happens it won’t be ideal, but does make sense.

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For one thing, it will send out the message Rhinos haven’t given up on this year. They are just four points adrift of second place and two points outside the play-offs. That’s a gap an experienced coach would be confident of bridging with the existing squad.

Secondly, there has been a major change in the way Leeds’ football operation is run, with sporting director Ian Blease taking over responsibilities chief executive Gary Hetherington has held for most of the past 28 years. As someone who was in charge of a big club for more than a decade, Arthur could provide valuable input on what needs to be done.

Thirdly, there’d be more time to bring in a new permanent head-coach. Leeds are keen on Paul Rowley and a compromise would allow him to see out the season with Salford Red Devils.

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