LEEDS RHINOS proved they are still a force to be reckoned with when they ended Betfred Super League leaders St Helens’ 100 per cent record. Here are five talking points from Rhinos’ 28-20 victory.
1: Rhinos have had better performances, but as a result it was up there with their best of the summer era. Leeds had no right to win with eight first-team squad members unavailable, two more injured during the game and a lightweight bench including three academy-qualified youngsters. They were under the cosh for most of the first half, but a never-say-die spirit and magnificent defensive effort made them worthy victors.
2: The result will do Rhinos more good than it will Saints harm. Saints had brushed all opposition aside in their previous five games, but now know the competition this year won’t be a procession. They made too many errors – the most critical being Zeb Taia’s knock-on just after Ben Barba’s second try – and their attack didn’t click, but credit has to go to Rhinos for not allowing them to play.
3: Maybe last week’s game will be a turning point for Cameron Smith. The teenager developed a huge reputation during his junior and youth days, but has yet to show what he can do at the top level. He was an unused substitute in the defeat by Widnes, but got some game time at Saints, didn’t look out of place and made a terrific try-saving tackle on Tommy Makinson late on, which will have given his confidence a real boost.
4: Leeds’ finge players have proved what they are capable of. Of the eight unavailable at Saints, seven would expect to be in the side if fit so coach Brian McDermott will have some tough decisions to make when the current injury crisis eases. Centre and full-back are two competitive positions.
5: Rhinos’ game at Saints kicked off 15 minutes earlier, but ended after Salford Red Devils’ home clash with Hull. In freezing conditions, nobody wants to watch near two-hour games, even ones as good as Friday’s. Some way has to be found of speeding up televised matches.