FRIDAY NIGHT’S Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final threatened to be a difficult tie for Leeds Rhinos and was, for eight minutes.
At that stage they trailed Leigh Centurions 6-0, but the Betfred Championship side had full-back Peter Mata’utia sent-off for a horrible tackle on Matt Parcell and from then on it was no contest.
By half-time Leeds were 40-12 in front and they cruised through what was – in comparison – a dull second period.
Leigh refused to throw in the towel after trailing 48-12 on the hour and a couple of tries in the final quarter made the scoreline relatively respectable.
But even so Rhinos won the second operiod 12-10 and were full value for the 52-22 final score.
Leeds weren’t very good in the second half, but the job was done by then and they were down to one available substitute so it was understandable.
The tie finished 12 men against 10. Rhinos’ Brett Ferres and opponent Jamie Acton were sin-binned seven minutes from time and Leigh were shown a second red card in the final seconds when Matty Dawson-Jones walked for dissent.
The first dismissal spoiled the game and ended any prospect of an upset, but referee Chris Kendall got it exactly right. A kick from Jordan Lilley bounced away from Mata’utia and straight to Parcell.
He collected, but was grabbed by the Leigh man, completely up-ended – through 180 degrees – and dumped on his head/neck. It was a clear red card offence.
Rhinos scored in the set from the penalty and soon afterwards ran in five successive tries without Leigh having possession of the ball to make it 34-6 after 27 minutes.
It wasn’t all straightforward for Rhinos though as Carl Ablett, Parcell and Jimmy Keinhorst all went off inside the opening half hour and were unable to return.
With Emerald Headingley unavailable due to Test cricket, the tie was switched to Featherstone Rovers’ LD Nutrition Stadium, Post Office Road, but attracted a disappointing gate of just 3,277.
Featherstone was only the fourth venue to stage a competitive Leeds rugby league home game, after Headingley, Headingley cricket ground and Elland Road.
The injuries will be a major concern for Leeds, who went into the game with nine first-choice players on their casualty list.
By half-time Leeds were 40-12 in front and they cruised through what was – in comparison – a dull second period.Peter Smith
Both hooker Parcell and second-row Ablett were back in the starting 13 after missing last week’s defeat at catalans Dragons through injury.
Front-rower Anthony Mullally returned on the bench after a two-match suspension, but forwards Brett Delaney and Jack Ormondroyd picked up knocks in France and did not feature.
Ashton Golding was preferred on the bench to hooker Brad Dwyer, being able to cover various roles in the backs as well as at acting-half.
Golding came on after Parcell’s head injury and had a fine game.
Rhinos made their usual poor start as Nathan Mason crashed over from close range, despite three defenders being all over him, after just four minutes and Ben Reynolds converted.
In the set following Mata’utia’s exit Tom Briscoe crossed off Jordan Lilley’s pass, though the try was unconverted. Briscoe scored again on 15 minutes to edge Leeds ahead and begin an avalanche of tries.
Leigh knocked on in their own half and conceded back-to-back penalties, following the second of which Lilley, Stevie Ward and Keinhorst moved the ball right and Briscoe stepped over in similar fashion to his first try.
Five minutes after that, Ward’s offload found the impressive Jack Walker on halfway and he sliced through for a brilliant try.
In the set from the restart, Cuthbertson’s offload sent Walker clear again and Ash Handley was in support to score, after a juggle.
Then Mullally, Golding and Richie Myler worked the ball to Keinhorst. His hamstring was nailed by a sniper on the stand roof, but still managed to get over the line.
In the set after that, Handley bust into space with Golding in support and the makeshift hooker crossed for a fine try.
That made it 34-6. Leigh finally got the ball back when their restart bounced into touch. They scored in the next set through Drew Hutchison, Reynolds converting, but Myler went over off a one-two with Walker and Lilley’s sixth conversion made it 40-12 at the break. That came after Leigh centre Ben Crooks, the ball carrier, had been placed on report for a challenge on Myler.
And just before the interval Mikolaj Oledzki had a ‘try’ chalked off for obstruction.
Leigh showed lots of spirit in the second half, playing down the slope, but once Leeds scored first the game petered out. A huge break by Ward got Leeds on the front foot and set up the position for Cameron Smith to score his first Rhinos try, from Myler’s pass.
Lilley converted that and landed a penalty after Josh Walters was taken out as he chased Ferres’ grubber. Leigh pulled an unconverted try back through Crooks and then former Leeds hooker Liam Hood went over and Reynolds added the two.
A skirmish after that was placed on report and then Crooks and Ferres were sin-binned as niggle crept in during the final stages. On the final play Cuthbertson went over for an unconverted tryb from Golding’s pass and Dawson-Jones was dismissed for his complaints.
The penalty count was three-two to Leeds in the first half and finished eight-seven in their favour.