Leeds Rhinos survived a late Hull FC fightback to claim a 20-16 victory at a partially-built Emerald Headingley Stadium.
The Rhinos were playing their first match of the season at their normal ground following construction work to the Main stand and South Stand, having played their opening home fixture at Elland Road.
Brian McDermott’s side quickly settled down though, opening up a 10-0 lead after Kallum Watkins claimed a high kick and muscled his way over, before Richie Myler’s high cut-out pass found Tom Briscoe to stroll in at the corner.
Nevertheless, Hull FC- who were without six first-team regulars- struck just before half time, Dean Hadley diving onto a grubber through to cut the margin to four at the break.
The home side seemingly took the game beyond the Airlie Birds with two tries in four second half minutes, first Watkins racing onto a flat pass to touch down, before turning provider for winger Briscoe to double his game tally.
In the last twenty, the visitors threw caution to the wind and reaped the rewards through touchdowns from the impressive Jordan Abdull and winger Fetuli Talanoa.
However, they could not find a way over for the decisive score, the Rhinos defence impressively repelling Lee Radford’s men to claim their second home win of the season.
Depleted Visitors Run Rhinos Close
Hull FC were missing Bureta Faraimo, Albert Kelly, Danny Houghton, Micky Paea, Josh Bowden and Liam Watts through injury and suspension, but still managed to run the reigning champions right to the wire.
Jack Logan- making his first league start for FC in over two years- was especially impressive with his kick returns, alongside Jordan Abdull, whose second-half introduction to the halves added more speed and guile around the ruck.
Although Radford will be disappointed with the result, he will at least be satisfied with the selection headaches he may face when his first-team stars return to action.
None of the young players did their future selection prospects any harm, which really emphasises the impressive strength in depth that the Airlie Bird have at their disposal.
Watkins One of The Best
With a try assist and 12 points to his name, Rhinos centre Kallum Watkins outlined why he is undoubtedly the best centre in the English game at present.
The Leeds skipper led from the front and needed to use every ounce of his experience and nous to help his team overcome the visitors spirited revival in the last 20 minutes.
Every knows what skills the 26-year old has in his locker- stopping him is a different matter though, as Lee Radford’s men found out.
Man of The Match- Kallum Watkins
Watkins led from the front for his side and carried himself around the field in a professional and determined manner throughout.
We cannot forget that the Rhinos also had injury headaches of their own- Liam Sutcliffe, Adam Cuthbertson, Stevie Ward, Jimmy Keinhorst, Brett Ferres and Nathaniel Peture all missed out through injury.
Leeds would formally have called upon Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire to guide the younger players through the match.
However, times have changed, and Watkins stepped up to the plate with great aplomb.
Leeds Rhinos 20
Tries: Watkins 2, Briscoe 2
Goals: Watkins 2
Drop Goals: n/a
Hull FC 16
Tries: Hadley, Abdull, Talanoa
Goals: Sneyd 2
Drop Goals: n/a
Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall; Moon, Myler; Garbutt, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney.
Replacements: Mullally, Ormondroyd, Walker, Walters.
Hull FC: Shaul; Logan, Griffin, Tuimavave, Talanoa; Connor, Sneyd; Taylor, Washbrook, Matongo, Minichiello, Manu, Hadley.
Replacements: Abdull, Fash, Green, Lane.
Referee: Robert Hicks