IT PROBABLY won’t be remembered as fondly as Liam Sutcliffe’s decisive last-gasp penalty, but Matt Parcell’s dramatic effort to prevent a killer drop goal was one of the most important plays in Leeds Rhinos’ Super League history.
The scores were locked at 16-16 in last Friday’s crucial Betfred Qualifiers clash when Salford Red Devils’ Robert Lui attempted to land a winning one-pointer, but Parcell got in the way and managed to smother the ball, snatching possession for Leeds and leading to Sutcliffe’s penalty which secured a priceless 18-16 success.
To make the intervention even more impressive, Parcell is playing with a damaged rib. He was paying the price after the game, but reflected: “I was just happy to get to him.”
He said: “I thought he was going to take the shot and luckily he went through with it. He caught me right in the ribs, which really hurt, but the important thing was I knew I had to get the ball back. I knew I couldn’t give away six more tackles, we were sort of on the ropes there so it was good to get the ball back and then we go down the other end and win the game.”
Before Friday, Leeds had won only three of their last 15 meetings with top-flight sides, all against Widnes Vikings and Parcell reckons beating Salford was as important for confidence as the two points.
“Confidence is a massive thing in sport,” Parcell said. “Losing so many games by two points or less did affect our confidence a bit and I guess we played like that at the back end of this year, so to grind out a win like that is going to be very good for the group going forward.
“When you are low on confidence everything goes against you and nothing goes your way. That’s just sport and I think if we had had a few more wins in those close early-season games it might have been a completely different season.
“But that’s the way it goes and to grind out a win in the last two games is really good and shows we are beginning to get the confidence back and we are heading in the right direction.”
Rhinos are second in the Qualifiers table, behind Salford on points difference and two points ahead of fourth-placed Toronto Wolfpack.
Crucially, Leeds have a better for and against of 43 so a Rhinos win at part-timers Halifax on Sunday would virtually seal top-flight survival before Toronto visit Emerald Headingley in the final round.
Even so, Parcell warned: “I don’t think they get too many opportunities to play Leeds so they are going to be very up for it and we definitely won’t take it for granted. The job’s not done. It [last Friday] makes the job a lot easier, but we’ve got to go to Halifax, get that win and secure our Super League status.”
Brett Ferres, who has captained Leeds in their past two games, was handed a one-match penalty notice by the Rugby Football League’s match review panel after being charged with grade A dangerous contact on Salford’s Tyrone McCarthy.
The Rhinos forward was sin-binned following the incident, but will miss Sunday’s game.