Leeds Rhinos 28 Hull KR 24: Super League thrills and spills in equal measure but the Rhinos get the job done

Jack Walker dives in between the uprights. PIC: James HardistyJack Walker dives in between the uprights. PIC: James Hardisty
Jack Walker dives in between the uprights. PIC: James Hardisty
A WIN’S a win, but Leeds Rhinos thrilled and frustrated their fans in equal measure at Emerald Headingley.

The 28-24 victory over Hull KR was similar to the previous home game against Huddersfield Giants, Rhinos building a big first-half lead, but then losing their way and having to hold on through the final 40.

Rhinos led 28-0 after 51 minutes, but then conceded 24 unanswered points to a team who hadn’t previously scored in two hours of rugby.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Winger Ash Handley celebrates his try with Jack Walker. PIC: James HardistyWinger Ash Handley celebrates his try with Jack Walker. PIC: James Hardisty
Winger Ash Handley celebrates his try with Jack Walker. PIC: James Hardisty

Rovers’ final try came with 71 seconds left and the relief when the final whistle blew was enormous.

Two wins from three over Easter isn’t a bad return, particularly considering it doubled Leeds’ total from the previous 10 rounds, but the loss at Wakefield on Easter Monday was two points wasted.

Yesterday’s success lifted Leeds above Hull KR into the dizzy heights of 10th spot and, importantly, they are now two points clear of bottom club London Broncos. But still Rhinos can’t string two good halves together.

With full-back Jack Walker fit again after three games on the injury list, coach Dave Furner switched Tui Lolohea back to stand-off and Liam Sutcliffe into the second-row.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Hooker Matt Parcell leaves chasers in his wake for his try. PIC: James HardistyHooker Matt Parcell leaves chasers in his wake for his try. PIC: James Hardisty
Hooker Matt Parcell leaves chasers in his wake for his try. PIC: James Hardisty

Lolohea had generally done well at full-back and it seems to have given him confidence. He had a good game and looked much more at home in the role than previously.

There were a lot of impressive individuals in the first hour, Walker, Ash Handley, Brad Dwyer, Cameron Smith and Matt Parcell being others, but Leeds must learn how to close a game out when they’ve built a big lead.

Rhinos opened the scoring after 106 seconds and, despite some early Rovers pressure, were comfortable for 60 minutes. Dwyer made a break out of dummy-half and Ash Handley was in support to get the hosts off to a flier, Sutcliffe kicking the first of his three conversion.

Leeds had an escape on eight minutes when Shaun Lunt seemed to have touched down from his own kick, but Rhinos received a penalty for offside.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Winger Tom Briscoe takes no chances with his touchdown. PIC: James HardistyWinger Tom Briscoe takes no chances with his touchdown. PIC: James Hardisty
Winger Tom Briscoe takes no chances with his touchdown. PIC: James Hardisty

George Lawler had already been held up over the line and soon after that Rovers shifted the ball left to Jimmy Keinhorst, but he was well wrapped up by Tom Briscoe and Kallum Watkins to prevent the try.

A Rovers error and penalty to Leeds turned the tide after 19 minutes, Smith – back in the second-row after a three-game injury lay-off – was tackled high in front of the visitors’ posts and Sutcliffe took the two to make it 8-0. A high shot on Walker gave Leeds another attacking platform and they used it to good effect, Handley crossing again off a lovely pass from Smith. That was his 12th try in 13 appearances, all in Super League, this year. He is an excellent finisher, but Handley’s all-round game has been strong for most of the campaign.

Sutcliffe, surprisingly given his recent form, was off target with the conversion attempt. Rhinos should have been further in front on 29 minutes, but Trent Merrin spilled Dwyer’s pass over the line. That was at the end of a set which began with a brilliant take of a high kick by Harry Newman, who sent Handley on a strong clearing run.

Smith played well and made a terrific tackle to keep Weller Hauraki out, then Lolohea and Briscoe scrambled across to force a knock-on from Ryan Shaw just short of the line.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Lolohea made an excellent break from acting-half on the last, but was pulled down a metre out and Watkins didn’t have the legs to go all the way after intercepting from Rovers debutant Antoni Maria deep in Leeds’ territory. When Leeds knocked on in that set their last chance of the half appeared to have gone, but – remarkably – they added 10 points in the final two minutes, which was to prove crucial.

Watkins forced a knock-on from Chris Atkin in Rovers’ 20 to give the hosts what seemed to be a final opportunity. It paid off when Parcell, just on for the impressive Dwyer, went close from dummy-half, before Lolohea evaded a tackle, spun and fired out a pass which Briscoe finished smartly.

Sutcliffe’s kick bounced away off a post and there was less than a minute remaining when Rovers restarted. Parcell exploited some awful marker defence to dash into open space from near his own line, drew the full-back and sent Walker in as the hooter sounded. The conversion made it 22-0.

That was Rhinos’ best 40 minutes of the season so far. They had led 30-0 at half-time of the previous home game, against Huddersfield, but were put under more pressure by Rovers and their defence was excellent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the second half they could have pulled well clear had Newman been able to finish a couple of chances, or get the ball away to players in support, but the late collapse was alarming.

Rovers should have scored when Danny McGuire pounced on an error with Shaw on his shoulder, but the winger – who had a clear run to the line – knocked-on.

That was a let-off and Rhinos punished it in ruthless style when Adam Cuthbertson, another player back from injury, off-loaded nicely one-handed to Parcell who had support, but pinned his ears back and raced 40 metres to the line.

At 28-0 Leeds could have kept their foot on the throat, built some confidence and hammered a fragile Rovers team, but instead they almost threw it away.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A couple of minutes after Parcell’s try Newman was shoved into touch on the first play from a penalty and Rovers countered for Hauraki to send Ben Crooks over, Ryan Shaw kicking the first of his three conversions.

Rhinos were opened up in the next set, but Lolohea made a try-saving tackle on Craig Hall. Then Walker collected a low kick between Leeds’ posts, made some ground and fed Newman. He accelerated away and went for the line, but Shaw got across to barge him into touch a couple of metres short with what must be a contender for Super League’s tackle of the season - and it almost proved a game-breaker.

A Leeds try then would have put the issue beyond doubt, but Rovers cut the gap to 16 points with 15 minutes left when Josh Drinkwater’s cross-field kick wasn’t dealt with and Crooks went in again, Shaw adding the extras.

On 74 minutes Kane Linnet crossed from Drinkwater’s pass and two minutes from time Hauraki finished off a kick by McGuire, who drop-kicked the conversion, but the clock was against Rovers and Leeds held on.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 18 penalties were shared, the count being five-five at half-time.

Leeds were without forwards Brett Ferres (knee), Wellington Albert (head) and Nathaniel Peteru (suspended) from the team which lost to Wakefield six days earlier.

Konrad Hurrell – who scored four tries in the away defeat by Hull KR three weeks ago – remains on the casualty list with a hamstring injury, but – wearing a suit – helped with the pre-match warm-up. Jamie Jones-Buchanan wasn’t selected for the second successive game, but did warm up.

Callum McLelland, who had been named in Rhinos’ initial 19, played for the under-19s in the curtain-raiser against Wigan Warriors, but suffered a hamstring injury in the first half. Despite that, Rhinos hit back from 12-0 down at half-time and 16-6 midway through the second half to end Wigan’s unbeaten record with an 18-16 success.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Tries by Tyler Dupree and Liam Tindall got Rhinos back into the game before a long-range interception by Jack Broadbent levelled the scores five minutes from time and Harvey Spence’s third conversion sealed the win.