LEEDS RHINOS will fly to Australia today with two wins under their belt, but much to work on ahead of the World Club Challenge.
Thanks in the main to a superb hat-trick by Jimmy Keinhorst, Leeds battled back to beat Hull KR 20-11 at Elland Road last night, but it was far from a convincing performance.
The Robins were the better team for all but the closing stages of each half and Rhinos will need a huge improvement to give Melbourne Storm a contest in seven days’ time,
Rovers were clearly fired up after last their round one drubbing by Wakefield Trinity and for much of the game Leeds looked as though their minds were elsewhere.
The ‘hosts’ were fortunate to be level at the interval, after trailing 10-0 inside the final 10 minutes of the half, but Leeds fought back strongly and took advantage of a couple of errors as Hull KR tired.
The build-up naturally focused on Leeds legend Danny McGuire’s first game against his former club, but it was his half-back partner Chris Atkin – called into the side after being left out last week – who stole the show as Rovers built their early lead.
Atkins’ drop goal strajght after half-time edged Rovers back in front and it stayed that way until Keinhorst scored his second try of the game with 12 minutes left and he completed his hat-trick five minutes later.
Keinhorst had not been named as part of the initial 19-man squad, but was drafted into the starting line-up at centre, with Liam Sutcliffe moving to stand-off for the first time since round two of last year’s competition.
He replaced Joel Moon, who was not risked due to a leg injury, though he is expected to be available to face Melbourne.
Stevie Ward came in on the bench for his first game since undergoing shoulder surgery after last year’s Grand Final.
Nathaniel Peteru, who suffered a biceps injury on his debut last week, dropped out. Former Melbourne player Mitch Garbutt (dead leg) remained on the casualty list alongside Brett Ferres and Keith Galloway.
Brett Delaney did not return after a head injury assessment in the first half and Anthony Mullally suffered a dislocated finger, reducing Leeds to 15 fit players in the second half.
Even so, substitute Jack Ormondroyd remained on the bench until the 78th minute.
The game got off to a dire start and quality-wise it didn’t improve much. There were countless errors, not all due to the conditions and Leeds in particular struggled to get to the end of their sets.
The Robins were the better team for all but the closing stages of each half and Rhinos will need a huge improvement to give Melbourne Storm a contest in seven days’ time,Peter Smith
With the rain teeming down, Adam Cuthbertson fumbled at the first play the ball and then Andrew Heffernan knocked on directly from the scrum.
Hull KR signalled their intent after just three minutes when full-back Jack Walker tried to clear Leeds’ line and was dragged back 15 metres by Tommy Lee, Thomas Minns and James Greenwood, though, almost inevitably, Rovers knocked on in the set from the drop out.
The East Yorkshire side did most of the early pressing, forcing three drop-outs in the opening 15 minutes – two of them from kicks by Atkin – and were close to opening the scoring when Maurice Blair powered on to McGuire’s pass, but knocked on in Walker’s last-ditch – and try-saving – tackle.
Lee also had an opportunity, but spilled the ball trying to force his way over on the last. Rhinos’ inability to hang on to the ball meant they were pinned near their own line, but they defended strongly though Rovers lacked invention on attack.
After getting nowhere from pressure near Leeds’ line, Rovers’ opening try came from long-range. Blair’s pass sent Heffernan racing away and Ryan Shaw was in support to score.
He stepped Walker, who managed to get him off his feet, but momentum took him over and the right-winger also converted from wide out.
The Robins were rocking and they increased their lead in the next set, through Adam Quinlan who went over from Atkins’ short pass, though Shaw’s conversion attempt bounced away off a post.
Rhinos pressed rarely in the opening half an hour, but lost the ball each time. Sutcliffe fumbled just before Rovers’ opening try, then Walker couldn’t hang on to Richie Myler’s pass and then Kallum Watkins was penalised for interference in possession a few metres out.
Leeds’ made a breakthrough seven minutes before the break. Ward injected some urgency when he was introduced after Quinlan’s try and his well-timed pass sent Cuthbertson galloping through a huge gap.
Rhinos were grateful to some ill-discipline from their old boy Chris Clarkson who was penalised for interference on the final tackle of the previous set.
Moments later Myler’s high kick was dropped by Quinlan, Carl Ablett went close and then Keinhorst got past Blair and McGuire to level the scores. Watkins was Leeds’ goal kicker in round one, but handed the duties to Myler who converted the first try, but was off target with his second attempt.
Hull KR went ahead for the second time two minutes after the interval when Atkins knocked over a drop goal following an error by Myler.
As poor as Leeds’ ball control was in the first half, it got worse following the break. Hull KR took up permanent residence near the champions’ line and got over it through Shaun Lunt, but opposite number Matt Parcell got underneath and prevented him grounding the ball.
Video referee James Child was called on when Parcell was pulled back chasing a loose ball, but Leeds were penalised for offside.
Keinhorst, who can play at centre or in the second-row, is unfortunate not to be in Rhinos’ team each week. He finished well for all three of his tries, powering over from Carl Ablett’s pass after Myler – who converted – and Sutcliffe had handled.
Five minutes later, on 72, the German international was in again, for an unconverted try, after Hall – who also had a fine game – squeezed out an offload after taking Myler’s kick
Shaw had a touchdown ruled out – from McGuire’s kick – in the 78th minute. Referee Robert Hicks signalled a try, but Child spotted an obstruction by the attacking team.
The penalty count finished eight-six in Rovers’ favour (three-three in the first half).