Twelve minutes from time Rhinos trailed Huddersfield Giants 26-6, with Ash Handley in the sin-bin, but they scored four tries to send the game into golden point and drop goal specialist Luke Gale won it with a 35-metre kick. The dramatic 27-26 victory was Rhinos’ fifth successive win and lifted them top of the table, on points difference, ahead of next Sunday’s Headingley showdown with champions St Helens.
Leeds were second-best for most of the game, but of what made the difference in the closing stages, coach Richard Agar said: “Having a bit of ball.”
He revealed: “We sent the message out to play freely and throw everything you can at them.
“We got Cuthbo [Adam Cuthbertson] back on there with 10 minutes to go to try and give us a bit more of a passing game and some offloading in the middle.
“We had him and Cam Smith operating in there too and at 26-6 you haven’t got too much to lose.
“It was a case of throw caution to the wind and play as much football as you can.
“I personally didn’t think there was enough time to get back, but once you post two back-to-back tries and get within a couple of scores, that does start to create a bit of doubt in the opposition.”
Agar felt Leeds should have had a penalty just before Gale’s winning one-pointer.
“He is a good guy to have on those occasions,” he said of Gale’s cool nerves at the end.
“We’ve seen him do it before under pressure for Castleford.
“I am not sure it’s the best he has ever struck, but he struck it well enough.”
Despite the win, Agar accepted Rhinos need to improve from their first game under new laws, including no scrums and set restarts instead of penalties for some offences.
He insisted: “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned.
“Plenty of improvements and a lot of lessons on what looked a new style of football.
“It was a quick game and resembled a game of touch and pass at times.
“There were times I thought they completed high, played really basic, kicked well and caused us a lot of problems because we were way too sloppy with the ball for 60 minutes.
“But I am pleased to get the win.
“It was never-say-die, we showed a lot of spirit to come back, but we are not kidding ourselves about the quality of our first 60 minutes either.”
Giants were on top for most of the match and Agar insisted the 80 minutes showed “momentum can be a real key”.
He reflected: “In the first half we committed a lot of errors and there was loads of possession against us.
“A lot of it was our own fault, self-inflicted and it showed what you can do with momentum.
“If the game stops at half-time we are a soundly beaten team.”
Agar felt Rhinos were “smacked in the mouth” by Giants in the opening 40 when Leeds went 14-6 behind.
“We have been in a good spot during the break, we’ve had three really good weeks’ preparation and all of a sudden you come out and like a boxing match someone wants to get the first punch in.
“Whack, they punched us squarely in the mouth and I thought we didn’t respond great at all.
“I thought we lost our composure and the momentum they created left us doing a lot of defending.
“I thought at half-time we were still very much in the game and we would have chances to flip that momentum around.
“When we kicked off with a couple of errors and a length of the field intercept try I thought we were looking too sloppy and for 55-60 minutes we were being soundly beaten.
“However, it just goes to show what a bit of momentum can do
“The boys nare happy, but also a bit disappointed with themselves on the first 60 minutes.”
The game was officially Giants’ home fixture, but played behind closed doors at Emerald Headingley.
Agar said: “It’s a shame the crowd weren’t there because what a finale that would have been in front of 10-15,000.”
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Thank you Laura Collins