Leeds Rhinos: Why Friday night’s Super League defeat at Wigan was one to forget for Blake Austin

HE SCORED a try in his first competitive appearance, but Blake Austin says his Leeds Rhinos debut was one to forget.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 20th February 2022, 5:35 pm

The stand-off, signed from Warrington Wolves in the off-season, threw a dummy and stepped through the Wigan Warriors defence to give Rhinos an early lead in the Betfred Super League round-two showdown at DW Stadium.

But things went sour for the visitors after that as Wigan, inspired by full-back Jai Field, levelled with a freak touchdown and then ran in four more tries in a devastating 10-minute spell either side of half-time before adding a sixth late on.

Leeds - already with several of their first-choice 17 unavailable - also lost two players, Ash Handley and Cameron Smith, to injury and finished with 12 players on the field after Liam Tindall was sin-binned.

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Blake Austin scored the first try at Wigan Warriors but then it all went downhill from there for Leeds Rhinos. Picture: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia.

“It was an awful night,” was Austin’s summary of the 34-12 defeat, which came six days after 22-20 loss to Warrington Wolves.

The stand-off reflected: “It was pretty disappointing, on the back of a good effort the boys put in last week.

“We were beaten in every facet.

“I thought we started quite well, but it all unravelled from there.”

Leeds Rhinos half-back Blake Austin. Picture: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia.

Rhinos were the better team until the first of Field’s three tries, which came after the ball bounced to him off Jake Bibby’s heel.

Wigan scored again on the stroke of half-time and conceded back-to-back tries, the second of those directly from a kick-off, in the opening moments of the second period.

With Wigan crossing for another try off a Leeds error soon after that, Rhinos were suddenly 28-6 down and Austin admitted: “You’re playing catch up after that.”

He stressed: “We need to be a lot better.

“We play Catalans [on Thursday] and we know if we’re not a lot better for that it will be another long night.”

It is a short turnaround for Rhinos, though the French side -last year’s league leaders - have one day less to prepare and Austin insisted: “It’s not about feeling sorry for ourselves.

“It is a long year, you get on with it.

“We are two weeks in and obviously we are not quite where we want to be, but the thing about Super League is it is a very long season.

“We well and truly know what we are capable of, we’ve just got to put it together.”

Austin was suspended for round one, but of how he felt he went in his first competitive performance for Leeds, he said: “That’s irrelevant really.

“We were pretty disappointed.

“I will get my first home game this week so I am excited for that.

“It is a short turnaround so we will get stuck in and hopefully get off the mark on Thursday.

“It will be another tough game, Catalans are a great team and we know we are going to have our work cut out.

“We are going to have to be on our game or it’ll be another night like that, but no issues, we know what we have got in the squad and one night doesn’t change that.

“We will get back to training and work on it for next week.”

Rhinos could be without both Handley and Smith.

Coach Richard Agar said: “Ash’s hip tightened up and Cam had a bad back.

“We’ll wait and see [if either injury is serious], but we’ll have at least a couple of boys back in the mix.”

Agar confirmed centre Harry Newman (hamstring) and wing David Fusitu’a (concussion) have “a chance” of being available and hooker Brad Dwyer will be back in contention after his one-match ban.

Full-back/half-back Richie Myler was set to undergo surgery today on the groin injury he suffered against Warrington, but it is not yet known how long he will be out of action.