LEEDS RHINOS’ eight-game, two-month winning run came to an end when they lost 22-14 at Huddersfield Giants yesterday.
Rhinos went into the game with their Super League status already secure and took an hour to find their feet before giving Giants a scare in the final quarter. Here are four talking points from the game.
1: Leeds could have won the match if they had clicked into gear earlier.
After struggling to put Huddersfield under any pressure for three-quarters of the game, they opened up in the final 20 and played some good rugby.
It finished three tries each, but Danny Brough’s two conversions and three penalty goals made the difference. Giants were full value for their win, but the way Leeds had them rattled late on made the poor first 60 minutes even more frustrating.
2: Backing up on Thursday from a Sunday game is tough enough, but Leeds could be down to the bare bones when they face Leigh Centurions in their final game of the season in three days’ time.
Ryan Hall (ankle), Mitch Garbutt (calf), Mitch Achurch (knee), Brett Delaney (knee), Danny McGuire (knee) and Anthony Mullally (concussion) were all unavailable yesterday – according to coach Brian McDermott – and Carl Ablett (ankle), Jordan Lilley (head and knee), Keith Galloway (Achilles) and Rob Burrow (knee) picked up injuries during the game.
3: Stevie Ward made his first start for 51 weeks, since suffering a serious knee injury in Rhinos’ win at Huddersfield which clinched the league leaders’ shield on September 25 last year.
In a season of few positives, his late return has been one. He has looked strong and energetic in his three games so far and the cameo at the end of the campaign will give him something to build on in the pre-season.
4: Rhinos’ player of the year will be announced tonight. This writer’s choice would be Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who has made a strong return from what could have been a career-ending injury, in a new role in the middle of the field.
The tough, skilful and versatile Jimmy Keinhorst would be runner-up, with Mitch Garbutt third.