LEEDS RHINOS ended their Halton Stadium hoodoo and secured a place in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-finals, but their 23-20 win at Widnes Vikings was far from convincing. Here are five talking points.
1: It is a long time since Rhinos played in such a flat atmosphere. The 1,865 attendance for a game between two Super League clubs was embarrassing. That’s no criticism of the fans who did turn up, but the Challenge Cup has lost its appeal and the competition desperately needs a revamp. Some suggestions: play the opening rounds in pre- and early-season, bring the final forward to May – replacing the pointless Magic Weekend – and cap ticket prices at £10 for all games before the semi-finals.
2: The standing ovation Richie Myler received from the Leeds fans after his drop goal was one of the more amusing moments of the season so far. It was smart move, just before the break with Leeds six points ahead and showed Rhinos have learned from what teams have done to them previously this season.
3: There are positive signs. One error apart, Jack Walker was excellent, fellow youngster Ashton Golding had a good game on the wing – though he took one for the team and was sin-binned, his double tackle before that was astonishing – and Mikolaj Oledzki did well in his first start. Also, there certainly aren’t many better second-rowers in the British game than 24-year-old Stevie Ward.
4: On the other hand, the same failings are affecting Rhinos every week. They play well, particularly on attack, only in short spells. When the attack clicks they are tough to defend against, but they give too many penalties away and can’t control a game when ahead. Leeds look especially vulnerable immediately after they have scored.
5: Two games into his comeback from injury, Nathaniel Peteru is looking the part. He came from Gold Coast Titans as an unknown quantity, but evidence so far suggests he is a strong runner, with an offload and therefore has the attributes to do well in Super League.