Salford Red Devils v Leeds Rhinos: Where the Super League game will be won and lost

Leeds Rhinos have an opportunity to right some wrongs when they visit Salford Red Devils tomorrow (Friday)..

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 4:45 pm

Rhinos were embarrassed 31-8 at home by Hull last week and have won just one of their opening five Betfred Super League fixtures.

Here are the key areas that will decide Friday's result.

1: Returning players. James Bentley, Kruise Leeming and Cameron Smith are all available after suspension and their return will give Rhinos a lift. Leeming’s influence, in particular, was missed last week when they lacked go-forward.

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King Vuniyayawa on his way to scoring for Rhinos against Salford last season. He will be on the other side this week. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

2: Discipline. Two players - one on each side - were sent-off and three (two of them Salford men) sin-binned the last time Rhinos visited AJ Bell Stadium and the home meeting saw three yellow cards, one of those to Leeds. And that was before the current crackdown. Rhinos have had at least one card in four of their five games this year and Salford a sin-binning in each of their last three. Whoever keeps 13 on the field the longest could be a deciding factor tonight.

3: Try-scoring backs. This is a recurring theme, but Leeds’ three-quarters need to see more of the ball, which is the half-backs’ main responsibility. When they were well supplied at Wakefield two weeks ago, they ran riot. Salford have a strong backline and if Brodie Croft and Marc Seyd get the ball wide, Rhinos will have trouble keeping them out.

4: Up front. Leeds’ initial squad includes only two specialist props, which means a lot of responsibility on Mikolaj Oledzki and Zane Tetevano, but Salford’s pack isn’t the strongest and with only Matt Prior missing from the first-choice forward lineup, it is an area Rhinos can dominate.

5: Past record. It usually doesn’t count for much, but Rhinos have won 45 of their 50 Super League meetings with Salford - including when they were struggling in 2016, 2018 and 2019 - and the last five in all competitions. If there was a team they could choose to face at a time like this, it would probably be tonight’s opponents, who are also in a form slump.

Kruise Leeming will return for Rhinos on Friday. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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Rhinos prop Mikolaj Oledzki. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.