Peter Smith’s verdict on Leeds Rhinos’ epic Magic Weekend victory over Hull
PRETTY IT certainly wasn’t, but Leeds Rhinos showed some outstanding characteristics in a remarkable and vital Dacia Magic Weekend win over Hull in Newcastle.
Rhinos were poor at times, particularly for a spell in the first half when they went from 8-0 up to 14-8 down; then 10 points adrift in the second half the game seemed to be going away from them. But from the 50th minute, when Hull scored what proved to be their final points, Leeds produced a remarkable display of guts, determination and desire.
The hero of their third golden point win in Betfred Super League was hooker – and at times half-back – Kruise Leeming, who scuffed a drop goal – the first of his career – over the bar in the 88th minute. It was his second and Leeds’ fourth attempt to win it, Richie Myler and Rhyse Martin – whose shot agonisingly hit the crossbar right at the end of the opening period of extra-time – having also been off target.
Considering Leeds were without a drop goal specialist in their team – Luke Gale and Liam Sutcliffe are on the long-term casualty list and Rob Lui suffered a head injury early on – and Hull had Marc Sneyd in their ranks, the odds were against Rhinos.
But, though Sneyd had a couple of efforts – both in normal and extra-time – Leeds controlled the game in impressive fashion once they had levelled the scores with seven minutes of the 80 remaining. That in itself was an achievement after Rhinos had been 24-14 behind and very much on the back foot at the 50-minute mark.
In the end, Leeds scored four tries to three and deserved a precious victory which kept them in fifth place in the table and on course for the play-offs. For Hull it was a must-win, but they let the chance slip through their fingers. Having built what could have been a decisive lead, they played too much up the middle over the final half an hour and didn’t establish any field position.
They could feel aggrieved over a disallowed try shortly before half-time, when it seemed Carlos Tuimavave had touched down from a kick by Sneyd. Video referee Ben Thaler ruled Jake Connor had knocked the ball on before it reached the winger, but man in the middle Robert Hicks sent it up as a try and there didn’t seem to be conclusive evidence to overrule that.
Tuimavave was also offside from a Connor kick just before Leeming’s try which began Rhinos’ fightback, but, other than their kicking game, Hull didn’t offer much. Two of their tries came directly from a kick and the other was after Connor landed a 40-20. Leeds struggled to deal with kicks from Connor and Sneyd, but were defensively strong when Hull had the ball in hand.
Leeming’s touchdown was his 11th of the season and he is now Rhinos’ joint-leading try scorer, along with Brad Dwyer.
There was a reshuffle in Leeds’ 17 with Myler being named in the halves and Jack Broadbent returning from the ankle injury he suffered in July, at full-back. Lui and Myler were Rhinos’ 13th different half-back combination this season, though the latter defended at full-back.
Coach Richard Agar had hoped to hold Dwyer back, to conserve his energy, but had to introduce him early, with Leeming going into the halves. Dwyer responded with a typically dynamic effort and won the official man-of-the-match award, but his outstanding individual effort was one out of many.
Broadbent made a superb return, scoring the try which sent the game into extra-time. He also contributed a couple of crucial interceptions on defence and snatched possession deep in Hull territory to set up Leeming’s winner.
Harry Newman scored a tremendous try, brilliantly set up a score for Leeming and did well to charge down a drop goal attempt by Sneyd. Martin had a strong game in the right-side second-row, 17-year-old Morgan Gannon, again, played the full game on the other flank and Cameron Smith put in a big effort off the bench.
For a while it looked like Leeds would contribute to their own downfall as a mistake by Myler handed Hull their opening try and they conceded some costly six-agains and penalties. But Rhinos managed to keep 13 players on the field throughout, which made a refreshing change and their discipline over the final half an hour was very good.
The final penalty count was eight-four in their favour (six-three in the first half), but Hull had five repeat sets to Leeds’ one.
Leeds led 6-0 after as many minutes, Martin producing a strong finish to score the opening try, converting and booting a penalty. Danny Houghton was gifted a touchdown when Myler fumbled a kick by Connor and Sneyd converted and levelled with a penalty before adding the extras again after Connor flicked the number seven’s kick to Tuimavave.
Newman’s outstanding finish and an equally good conversion by Martin squared matters on 26 minutes, but Sneyd landed a penalty either side of half-time and Connor went over following his own 40-20.
Leeming’s reviving try was a fine effort, the same player also beginning the move which also involved Luke Briscoe and Newman. Briscoe should have edged Leeds ahead, but put a foot in touch – as spotted by Thaler – before getting the ball down.
Rhinos got level when Myler sent Broadbent over, but Martin – surprisingly – failed to add the extras.
Super League has its problems at the moment, but games as dramatic and exciting as this – and Catalans’ golden-point win over St Helens in the preceding game, which delayed the Leeds-Hull kick-off by 30 minutes – prove the sport still had a lot to offer.
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