LEEDS RHINOS are one step closer to securing a Super League place for next year after maintaining their 100 per cent record in the First Utility Qualifiers with a 30-8 home win over Salford Red Devils.
Here are five talking points from what was one of Rhinos’ most important victories of the campaign.
1: It is the same story every week, but hooker James Segeyaro was a huge influence for Leeds.
He provided the final pass for two tries, poached a touchdown himself and was involved in their other four-pointer in an all-action display which also included some big defence in the middle.
Without him, Leeds would be in a relegation scrap.
2: Segeyaro hasn’t been here long enough to qualify, but veteran Jamie Jones-Buchanan must be a leading contender for Rhinos’ player of the year prize at the awards night in two weeks’ time.
He scored their opening try and squeezed out an offload which set-up Kallum Watkins’ crucial touchdown just before the break. Considering he missed pre-season with what could have been a career-ending injury, the 35-year-old has made a remarkable comeback.
3: Rhinos aren’t playing as well as they were at the end of the Super League rounds, but the job is getting done.
Five wins in the Qualifiers should be enough to keep them in the top-flight next year and with part-timers Batley Bulldogs next up at Headingley on Friday, the pressure could be off ahead of the final tricky games at Huddersfield Giants and home to Leigh Centurions.
4: That said, a successful final third of the season should not disguise the fact it has been a poor year for the club who won everything in 2015.
Rhinos have lacked ideas on attack for most of the campaign and the first half against Salford was an illustration of that. The need for an attacking half-back, with a quality kicking game – to support Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Jordan Lilley - is obvious.
5: Stevie Ward will be like having a new player next year. After his injury nightmare of the past 12 months it was heartening to see him make such a strong return off the bench against Salford.