LEEDS RHINOS continued their good run with a precious 28-12 win at their bogey club Huddersfield Giants last night.
It wasn’t the prettiest of performances by Leeds, but they attacked well in the first half and then showed lots of grit when under heavy pressure in the second.
Giants, who beat Leeds three times on their own ground last year, were poor and made a host of errors in good field positions, but many of those were forced by Leeds’ enthusiastic defence. The visitors’ tackling on their own line was outstanding.
The lead changed hands three times in the first half with Rhinos racing 10-0 ahead after as many minutes, going 12-10 behind at the start of the second quarter and then rallying to take an 18-12 interval lead.
The tries dried up after the break, but preventing Giants adding to their points total was a notable achievement for the visitors.
Penalties had given Giants their first half attacking opportunities and it was a similar story early in the second, though with errors beginning to creep in as well.
Strong defence kept Giants at bay and Leeds moved two scores ahead through a penalty goal at the end of the third quarter, added two more points 10 minutes from time and then wrapped things up with a try on the final play of the game.
Leeds weren’t as good with ball in hand after the break, but Matt Parcell had another strong game and Joel Moon played particularly well in the first half.
There was also a strong contribution from Anthony Mullally and Jordan Baldwinson deserved his first try for the club in the final moments.
Leeds went ahead after five minutes following a goalline drop out forced by Moon’s kick.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan drove the ball in and then Adam Cuthbertson and Danny McGuire worked the ball right to Ashton Golding, his run created an overlap and Tom Briscoe was in place to take the offload and score his first try of the season.
Jones-Buchanan was back after a three-game lay-off with a damaged foot. He replaced Brett Delaney, who has a groin injury.
Liam Sutcliffe – who had not been included in the initial 19-man squad because of a quad problem – was drafted in and replaced Josh Walters on the bench.
Both Walters and Ash Handley, who was also in the 19, are set to feature for Featherstone Rovers against Toulouse Olympique tomorrow, along with on-loan Leeds half-back Cory Aston.
Rhinos were still without Keith Galloway, Stevie Ward, Jack Ormondroyd – due to injury – and the suspended Brad Singleton, but it was a strong 17.
On 10 minutes Leeds kept the ball alive in front of Giants’ posts and then on the last Brett Ferres kicked in goal and an alert Ryan Hall beat fellow England winger Jermaine McGillvary to touch down.
Golding landed an angled conversion to make it 10-0, but two tries in three minutes – both in penalty sets – edged Giants ahead.
On 18, Ukuma Ta’ai went over from Lee Gaskell’s excellent pass close to the line and then McGillvary crossed off quick hands by Gaskell and Kruise Leeming, Danny Brough added the extras to both.
Golding’s terrific run from close to his own line got Leeds back on the front foot and a penalty took them deep into Giants’ territory.
But there was a stroke of fortune about the resulting score as Carl Ablett – who had been a pre-match fitness doubt – took McGuire’s pass on the half-volley, a gap opened up and he had enough momentum to slide over.
Leeds had an escape on 33 minutes which led to a try at the other end. Referee Ben Thaler awarded Giants six more tackles when McGillvary dropped the ball, but Brough’s kick bounced away from Aaron Murphy and into touch in-goal.
From the tap Leeds surged upfield, Ferres leading the charge and on the last Ablett dabbed a kick over the line, the defence was again caught napping and Matt Parcell got the ball down.
Having been off target with two of his three previous attempts, Golding this time hit a post so Leeds led by only six at the break, despite scoring four tries to two. Giants did have an opportunity in the final moments of the half, courtesy of back-to-back penalties and the line seemed to open up for Darrell McIntosh, but Moon and Hall did brilliantly to close him down.
A knock-on by McIntosh at the start of the second half denied Giants a try between the posts, then both teams were reduced to 12 men when Brough and Ablett were sin-binned for fighting.
The penalty went to Rhinos, moments after Hall has been penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball near his own line.
Leeds got another penalty, but wasted the opportunity with a forward pass and then turned the ball over regularly as they tried to come out of their own end.
Some strong line defence – particularly Parcell on his opposite number Ryan Hinchcliffe – and forced errors by the hosts – kept Giants out
Referees have clearly been told to clamp down on incorrect play-the-balls this season. It was Giants’ turn on 57 minutes deep in their territory and Golding took the two to make it 20-12.
Moments later the full-back had to be helped off following lengthy treatment after he had helped hold McIntosh up over the line from Brough’s towering kick.
That was a blow for Leeds, but Sutcliffe – who spent the second half of last year at full-back – came on as a direct replacement.
Rhinos also finished the game without in-form centre Jimmy Keinhorst, who limped off a few moments earlier.
Rhinos had little opportunity to attack in the second period and were lacking in ideas when they did.
An error by McIntosh led to a drop out, but Mitch garbutt was tackled in possession on the last after a lacklustre set.
Successive Giants errors allowed Leeds to build some pressure and they tapped a kickable penalty in front of the sticks with 11 minutes to go, before opting to take the points moments later, through Sutcliffe.
There was a last scare when Giants got the ball back from the re-start, but yet another error let Leeds off the hook and they finished in style.
McGuire had a dart, then Baldwinson went over from close range off Parcell’s pass, Sutcliffe adding the extras with the final kick of the game.
The penalty count finished 9-7 to Giants (6-3 in their favour in the first half).