CHOCOLATE EGGS are off the menu for vegan Anthony Mullally, but Leeds Rhinos’ breakout star is determined to keep bringing home the bacon.
Signed from Huddersfield Giants at the end of 2015, Mullally made only his second start for the club at Hull on Good Friday and wrapped up a 52-24 win with a storming solo try – his third of the year – in the final moments.
“I don’t eat chocolate, but I think my girlfriend’s got me a special vegan Easter egg so I should be all right,” Mullally said of his unusual – for a rugby player – diet.
Not that there is much opportunity for any player to over indulge during the bank holiday weekend. This afternoon is the second of four games in 14 days for Rhinos and normal preparation goes out of the window. Some players who might normally miss training on a Monday will be expected to play today and Mullally said: “It’s a different mentality – you’ve just got to play. We’ve got Doncaster on Friday and Huddersfield the Thursday after, but then we get a bit of time off. It’s just a case of getting through it.”
From Mullally’s point of view another game so quickly is an opportunity to continue recent good form and strengthen his hold on a place in the side. He stressed: “I am just happy to be in the team each week and trying to build some consistency. I’m not getting carried away with anything, but I am enjoying it.”
Fresh from their biggest-ever win at Hull, Leeds will go into today’s clash with Mullally’s former club Widnes Vikings in confident mood.
“It was a good performance, especially in the first half,” he said of the game three days ago. “We didn’t want to take our foot off the gas in the second half, they got back into it a bit, but we took control back and finished them off. After the loss at Warrington we needed a big response and we did that.”
Leeds had not scored a half-century of points against Super League opposition since the 50-0 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final demolition of Hull KR in August, 2015. Mullally reckons Rhinos’ improved attack has been built on strong defence. He said: “I think defensively, that’s where the ruthlessness is. We are really enjoying defending with each other. If someone misses a tackle someone else is going to clean up.
“We know we have got a commitment and trust in each other. In attack we are definitely getting there, we are getting better each week. We’ve got Moony [Joel Moon] in the halves with Mags [Danny McGuire now] and Moony’s really creative. So’s Mags and he’s organising stuff really well so they’ve got a good combination going on.”
Brad Singleton will complete his six-match ban today and Keith Galloway made his first appearance of the season, after a serious Achilles injury, in the win at Hull. That adds to competition in the front-row, but Mullally is delighted to see them both back.
He said: “Big Keithy is one of my mates in the team and he played well on Friday, he got some decent minutes after being out for seven months or so. It is great to see him back out there.
“It’s good to have more competition, with Singo coming back soon as well. You have to concentrate on playing well each week and being consistent and hopefully staying in the team, because you are never safe.”
Widnes are bottom of the league, but Mullally warned Rhinos aren’t in for an easy afternoon. He said: “When we played Warrington they hadn’t won a game and look what they did. You can’t under-estimate anyone. Widnes are a good team regardless of where they are in the league.
“It’s my hometown team and I always look forward to playing them and if we can get another win we will be in good shape, but we’re happy to stay under the radar and hopefully at the end of the year we’ll be up in the top-four.” Ashton Golding (hamstring) and Liam Sutcliffe (knee) have been named in Rhinos’ initial squad for today despite being hurt on Friday.
Jordan Lilley and Mikolaj Oledzki are added to the 17 on duty at Hull and teenage full-back Jack Walker has been placed on stand-by, though he is not in the 19.
Meanwhile, Rhinos under-19s were beaten 36-24 at Huddersfield Giants. Harry Newman, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Harvey Whiteley and Spencer Darley scored Leeds’ tries and Tom Schofield kicked four goals.
Leeds Rhinos: from Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall, McGuire, Moon, Garbutt, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Mullally, Burrow, Ward, Galloway, Baldwinson, Lilley, Oledzki.
Widnes Vikings: from Ah Van, Armstrong, Buchanan, Burke, T Chapelhow, Craven, Dean, Dudson, Farnworth, Gilmore, Hanbury, Houston, Johnstone, Marsh, Olbison, Runciman, Thompson, Walsh, White.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (Warrington).
Kick-off: Today, 3pm.