LEEDS RHINOS made it four wins from their last five First Utility Super League matches when they beat high-flying Wigan Warriors 18-16 at Headingley Carnegie. Here are five talking points from the game.
1) Rhinos’ luck may be beginning to change.
They played well and deserved the win, but some things went their way in the second half, which hasn’t happened very often this year. An example was when Josh Charnley slipped as he looked on course to score an important try and was then harshly penalised for not playing the ball properly.
2)That said, it was a much stronger defensive effort from Leeds.
Earlier in the year they would have collapsed in the final 10 minutes, after two quick tries saw Wigan cut the hosts’ lead from 14 to just two points. Rhinos scrambled well, are now finding a way to defend penalties and back-to-back sets and managed the game well in those tense final minutes. All big steps forward.
3) Kallum Watkins has had a disappointing year by his own standards, but is starting to find his form with ball in hand and Leeds are a greater attacking threat as a result.
Watkins showed great strength to score Leeds’ opening try – after his match-winning brace at Hull seven days earlier – and was a constant danger to Wigan’s usually impressive defence.
4) Leeds players were incensed in the first half when Taulima Tautai came as the third man in to tackle the standing leg of Rhinos prop Adam Cuthbertson. The match officials took no action and Leeds’ Carl Ablett was spoken to for his angry protests. Afterwards Rhinos boss Brian McDermott condemned that type of incident as a potential “leg-snapper”. No damage was done, but such ‘cannonball’ tackles needed removing from the game.
5) Rhinos are where they deserve to be on the table, but the picture looks much more encouraging now than a month ago. If they can keep hooker James Segeyaro and add an attacking half-back with a quality kicking game, the current squad is capable of challenging for honours next year. They have to avoid relegation first, of course.