Our Leeds Rhinos Jury look back to the victory over St Helens and ahead to Sunday’s match at Salford Red Devils.
It was a strong effort from the Rhinos to see them take away the two points from St Helens.
Last Thursday’s game wasn’t just crucial, it was entertaining. It wasn’t a full team of first-team players but the team that turned rose to the challenge mightily.
I saw a team who played well as a cohesive unit, against a St Helens squad who meant serious business. No-one watching would call it an easy game for either team.
Leeds were dealt a stroke of luck when Matty Smith was taken out with a nasty eye injury early on.
Yet it took an efficient team to capitalise on the good fortune. In general, the team played smart and cleanly, keeping down the number of silly penalties given away recently.
The Rhinos suffered their own misfortune with Liam Sutcliffe coming off with a hamstring injury.
The team rallied well and made good use of a sin-binning of Jon Wilkin in the final quarter of the game.
With the younger players like Jordan Lilley, Jack Walker and Ash Handley making strong appearances and solid performances from some of the older more experienced players, it couldn’t help but give you hope for the team’s future in the upcoming months.
The well-deserved man of the match, young Jack Walker, had a tremendous, game filling in for injured full-back Ashton Golding. He defended superbly, particularly under lots of testing high kicks, and seemed to be all over Saints when in attack.
Rhinos’ efforts have earned them a solid third spot in the table, joint with Salford on points. It makes the upcoming game against the Red Devils even more crucial. Both teams have made tremendous comebacks from last season. No longer fighting to prevent relegation in the middle-eights, they both hold strong spots in the top four.
If Leeds pull out a performance similar to last week’s, then they should come away with the win for me. It’s seeing what that effort cost them and if it can be replicated – that will be interesting this week.
As the end of the regular season nears, the games are as hotly contested as they ever have been.
They say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but last Thursday we did see two players who should ensure that the future is bright (or at least Emerald) at Headingley for many years to come.
Jack Walker had fans reaching for their programmes to check his age as he produced a performance that defied his relative first-team inexperience. He hardly put a foot wrong all night and was deserving of his man-of-the-match award. Jordan Lilley – back from exile at lowly Bradford and with a point to prove – put a shift in that indicates he should be on the team sheet next week.
Sadly both of those players would not normally have had a look-in had injuries and suspensions not restricted the available playing squad and forced Brian McDermott into selecting them. We have not taken sufficient opportunity to blood our outstanding young talent this season.
This weekend sees an away trip to surprise package Salford, who have really turned it around since finishing in the Million Pound Game last season. With the Red Devils currently lying second, that means Leeds are in for a tough encounter.
Finally, a quick mention to Jack Ormondroyd from last Friday’s game and the latest ‘lucky winner’ in the ‘Brian’s Bench Warmer’ competition for unused subs.
It was crucial that Leeds came away with a win last Thursday and a depleted side thankfully managed to grind one out against a steely Saints side.
Jack Walker and Jordan Lilley both performed admirably when the spotlight was on them, as did the more experienced pair of Joel Moon and Anthony Mullally.
With injuries starting to rack up, the 10-day break between games will have done the squad good ahead of Salford, who remain above us on the table after they beat Huddersfield last week.
Coming back over the Pennines with two points would be a huge boost in the race for a top-four place, but a loss would put a lot of unwanted pressure on the clashes with Hull FC and Wigan Warriors.
What a victory. I didn’t have the greatest of confidence with who we had missing and up against a confident Saints outfit, but our ‘young guns’ really stood up along with the hard grunt of Keith Galloway and Brad Singleton with another sublime display for the classy Joel Moon.
Massive raps must go to 17-year-old Jack Walker who looked like he had been playing there for years.
I am praying the rumours of a move to Wire aren’t true.
Last week’s game against St Helens was certainly exciting to watch with the result in doubt almost to the final whistle.
It was good to see Jordan Lilley back in the team; he added a more positive kicking game to the mix and should be given an extended run. Jack Walker is a star in the making, hardly putting a foot wrong throughout the match. It is puzzling though why, with the loss of Liam Sutcliffe, the fourth substitute wasn’t used.
One point which must give cause for concern is this season’s poor disciplinary record. So far the team have accumulated a total of 17 matches in bans.
Injuries are part of the game and cannot be avoided, but suspensions can prove expensive, especially at this end of the season.
Maybe Brian McDermott read my piece last week?
He trusted his kids in his ‘16-man squad’ and Jordan Lilley and Jack Walker were stand-outs in a decent win over Saints.
It’ll be interesting to see who he chooses this week and if Walker and Lilley have earned their place in the ‘16’.