Our YEP Jury look back on Leeds Rhinos victory at Salford Red Devils and ahead to tomorrow’s home clash with Hull FC.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the win over Salford last weekend was the margin of victory against a team placed in an adjacent position in the league table.
Leeds benefitted greatly for an opening 40 minutes where they blew Salford away.
Whilst the game saw the return of a couple of the old guard, Jack Walker retained his berth at full-back and Jordan Lilley was at least used off the bench. Regardless of where players are in the squad pecking order, a good performance should see individuals retained in the team and conversely a poor display should have players looking over their shoulders, creating constant pressure for places.
On one level, it is good see Salford having their best season in many years and maybe things are finally coming together for them on the field.
Manchester is a huge potential rugby league market and hopefully soon Salford will crack the conundrum of getting the paying public through the turnstiles in sufficient numbers.
With a couple of weeks of the regular season remaining, before the split, Leeds should enter the final third of the season in a top-four spot and in a good position to contest end-of-season honours.
The big question is will the Castleford Express run out of steam at the business end of the season? It is uncharted territory for them and will Leeds (or someone else) have what it takes to finally topple them in a game that actually matters?
Tomorrow sees the dress rehearsal for the Challenge Cup semi-final at the end of the month, but neither side will read too much into this match, given their respective positions at the top of the table and that both teams are assured to contest the top-eight series.
We are still very much in the phoney war stage prior to the semi-final and neither side will be keen to show their tactics just yet. Having said that, Leeds also seem to have the hoodoo on Hull in big encounters in recent years, so I hope that all bodes well for a Loiners victory.
On paper, last week’s clash with Salford promised to be a hard fought close encounter.
Events proved different. With what was probably one of the best displays of open, fast, clinical rugby league played so far, Leeds proceeded to dominate proceedings.
It is difficult to pick out who was the outstanding player as there were telling contributions from all across the park; big games from Danny McGuire, Matt Parcell and Adam Cuthbertson were matched by big efforts from Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Anthony Mullally and Stevie Ward.
Much has been written about the lack of “home” support at the AJ Bell Stadium, sadly the problem is the stadium itself. It is in the wrong place, has no decent access points and supporters often find themselves still in the car park some 55 minutes after the final whistle!
Why, when the smaller stand lies empty are the away fans shunted out to the extreme end of the main stand?
My seat gave me an excellent view of the Leeds fans gathered behind the posts, but not of the actual pitch. Needless to say we quickly moved elsewhere.
The Rhinos are in something of a dilemma now with their promising youngsters. It was good that Jordan Lilley has signed a new contract, but the rumours about Jack Walker are disconcerting, he shows a great deal of promise and every effort should be made to keep him.
As far as Sunday afternoon’s go, Leeds Rhinos’ victory at Salford Red Devils was very enjoyable!
The weather matched our first half of rugby as we played some scorching rugby which blew the hosts away.
Danny McGuire was the tormentor in chief with a wonderful array of kicks and passing, Matty Parcell enjoyed the room given to him by the hard work of the pack and young Jack Walker, fast becoming a fans’ favourite, was once again rock solid at the back and also a real danger in attack.
The Rhinos are warming up nicely and I’m starting to get excited about what this side can do. Next up are Hull FC at Headingley tomorrow – it should be another excellent encounter.
This time of season always sorts the contenders from the pretenders and I feel that Leeds put forward their contender credentials on Sunday whilst Salford sadly may well be destined to be this year’s pretenders. The question is, what are Hull FC? Cup semi-finalists but in the league? Contenders or pretenders?
The Rhinos were able to take their foot off the gas after a clinical first-half showing in the meeting with Salford, a game that most expected to be a closely-fought battle.
But, with a 30-point lead at the half-time break, and the game practically won and a squad already down on numbers, it was a wise decision to just see the game out in the second 40.
That win took us into second place in the Super League table and all but sealed a top-four spot, and a win over Hull FC tomorrow night would confirm that.
The ‘Airlie Birds’ haven’t been in the best of form recently, so this could be a good time to play them, especially if their playmaker Albert Kelly is missing due to the injury he picked up last week.
I expected a win from Leeds last weekend. They not only won but dominated the match, running in tries a plenty. This week we face our next Challenge Cup rivals Hull. A win tomorrow could set the Rhinos up for a strong win in a fortnight’s time in the Cup, as well as gain two crucial points.