LEEDS RHINOS’ season began with a 6-4 defeat at St Helens, in a game which could have gone either way.
Here are five talking points from Rhinos’ Betfred Super League opener.
1: The 2017 season has started for Leeds in the same way last year’s did, with a two-point defeat in a low-scoring game.
Expectations were higher 12 months ago, when Leeds went down 12-10 to Warrington Wolves, but they could feel happier with their performance this time around. Defensively at least.
2: It wasn’t the highest quality, but it was a tense way to start the season with two teams defending well and the result in the balance until the final whistle.
Saints, who were held up over the line three times and knocked-on going for it on a couple of occasions, probably deserved the win, though Leeds would have taken the points but for a sensational tackle by Tommy Makinson on Liam Sutcliffe in the second half.
3: What a contrast to the sides’ last meeting at Saints, which Leeds lost 38-34. Last week was the lowest winning score against Rhinos in Super League and Leeds’ only match in the competition which has produced fewer points was last year’s 8-0 win over Salford Red Devils.
4: So what did we learn? Really, very little. Leeds looked strong defensively and their effort was outstanding throughout, but they lacked a cutting edge with the ball.
Saints’ kicking game was superior and Rhinos didn’t show enough creativity from half-back. Those are issues which were highlighted last year and in pre-season and are likely to continue, particularly when Danny McGuire isn’t in the side.
5: The big positive was the performance of rookie full-back Ashton Golding, wearing the No 1 jersey for the first time in a competitive game.
The 20-year-old has succeeded the best defensive full-back in the British game, Zak Hardaker and concerns have been voiced that he is not big enough to fill the role at the top level. But he made three try-saving tackles, was safe under the high ball and got out of his in-goal area several times. And his attacking game will get sharper as conditions improve.