Leigh Centurions 10 Leeds Rhinos 46: Rhinos cut loose in second half to inflict another defeat on rock-bottom Leigh
A CLINICAL second-half performance ensured Leeds Rhinos avoided their Friday the 13th banana skin at Betfred Super League’s bottom club Leigh Centurions last night.
In front of a crowd of just 2,818, Rhinos eased into an early 10-0 lead, but were pegged back to a four-point advantage at the break, despite having most of the territory.
At that stage, Leigh’s first win of the season was a possibility and they would have gone ahead moments after the resumption but for a try-saving tackle by Konrad Hurrell – who hobbled through the third quarter before going off.
That was a big moment in the game, Leeds scoring 14 points in the blink of an eye to go well clear and they were never in any danger from there on.
It was a good win for Rhinos, but a scrappy, stop-start game, with a series of lengthy stoppages for injuries – hardly a shock considering the workload players are being put through.
The fact this match – in mid-August – was the first time Leeds had their six and seven, Rob Lui and Luke Gale, on the field together in 2021 tells the story of Rhinos’ season.
As does Gale’s departure, with an injury to his left knee, after just 16 minutes.
Brad Dwyer came off the bench to replace him and Kruise Leeming switched from acting-half to half-back, but Leeds once again found themselves with only one specialist play-maker on the pitch. Lui had a good game and Leeming did a solid job, but it’s obvious why Leeds have signed two pivots for next season.
Rhinos are doing it tough up front, with Mikolaj Oledzki, Matt Prior, King Vuniyayawa and Alex Mellor all on the casualty list. They fielded a small pack, but that wasn’t so much the problem as Leeds laboured through the opening 40. They had plenty of go-forward, but very little final product.
They got their attacking game together for that spell at the start of the second period and that effectively won them the game.
The score blew out in the closing 10 minutes when Leeds scored four tries to take it from 24-10 to the final 46-10.
When Rhyse Martin failed to convert Tom Briscoe’s try from the touchline after 24 minutes it was his first miss in 35 attempts, a run stretching back to the home win over Leigh on July 1.
He finished with seven goals.
Rhinos had two touchdowns ruled out in the opening quarter, passes by Tom Briscoe to Lui and Lui to Martin being ruled forward.
Leeds scored either side of those, after 10 minutes. It was Zane Tetevano’s first try for the club, the big forward getting a walk-in from close-range off acting-half Leeming’s pass.
Leigh’s James Bell had knocked on 10 metres from his own line and the hosts conceded a six-again on the last tackle after some spirited defence.
Last tackle options have been a problem for Leeds this year, reflecting their lack of consistency in the halves.
On 24 minutes Leigh conceded a drop out from a kick by Lui and at the end of the resulting set Tom Briscoe went over from Harry Newman’s quick pass.
Leigh got back in the game soon afterwards, in a penalty set, when Matty Gee cut through and Craig Mullen added the extras. That was the home side’s first serious attack and other than a break by Ben Hellewell which Richie Myler stopped, they had very little go-forward. Myler had a good game.
Rhinos should have made more of their territory and possession in the first half, but their execution, the two tries apart – was very poor.
Wild passes went into touch a couple of times and Rhinos failed to get anything from a terrific break by the impressive Cameron Smith.
It was a different story following the break, once Hurrell had made a try-saving tackle on Jack Logan the ex-Hull man had intercepted the ball.
Soon afterwards Myler linked with Lui to give Tom Briscoe a chance and the winger finished well at the corner. In the next set Leeds scored a remarkable try. Leeming chipped over the defence on the last, the ball bounced back and Smith gathered to swoop between the posts. Martin booted a penalty goal soon afterwards, when Leigh were caught offside in front of their own posts.
Generally, Leeds concede too many penalties and need to do a better job defending them. Leigh’s second try - also scored by Gee, off Bell’s pass - came after Rhinos had been penalised on the home side’s line. That was unconverted and Leeds made the result safe 10 minutes from the end with a terrific touchdown, deservedly scored by Lui who finished off some basketball-style handling involving Leeming, Martin and Newman.
Leeds got the ball back from Leigh’s short restart and Dwyer – now Leeds’ leading scorer – scorched over for his ninth try of the season.
Ash Handley, captain on the night, finished well from Myler’s lovely pass and in the final seconds the winger pounced on a Leigh error, Leeming and Morgan Gannon both hacked on and the number nine touched down for an unconverted try.
An incident was placed on report in the first half when Leigh winger Matty Russell was hurt in a tackle by Tetevano.
The penalty count was eight-seven in Rhinos’ favour (three-two to Leigh in the first half).
Rhinos were 20-18 winners in last night’s academy derby, having trailed hosts Castleford Tigers 18-14 at half-time.