“It shouldn’t have been that hard”. Rhinos supremo Brian McDermott appeared decidedly underwhelmed after his Leeds side posted their first win, and points, of the campaign. In a meeting of the only two teams in Super League to have lost all three of their opening fixtures, somebody’s ‘0’ had to go and after 80 minutes of ill tempered, error-strewn play, the champions finally have a win on the board.
There was an air of desperation from both teams throughout proceedings, as both sides scrapped for the two league points on offer, and perhaps more importantly, to avoid being left adrift at the foot of the table.
Home side Leeds drew first blood after a crossfield kick from Sutcliffe was tapped back by Ryan Hall to centre Joel Moon. The Australian looked for all the world like dropping the ball, but managed to juggle it under control to touch down in the corner. Jordan Lilley converted and the Rhinos were up and running.
Huddersfield persevered and after hooker Ryan Hinchliffe was tackled ten metres from the Leeds line, returning skipper Danny Brough was quickest off the mark from dummy half, sneaking through to reply for the Giants. Jamie Foster added the extras to level the scores.
Buoyed by their success, Huddersfield pressed and a kick to the corner from Brough found last season’s top scorer Jermaine McGillvary in space. The winger eluded Rob Burrow’s desperate challenge to wheel round the Leeds line and touch down. An easy conversion for Foster saw the Giants take a 12 – 6 lead at the half-time hooter.
Leeds came out fighting after the break. Stand-off Liam Sutcliffe dummied his way through the Giants defences from ten metres to open the second half scoring, Lilley coolly converting to level matters once again.
The Giants had other ideas and replied quickly, Leeds flat footed as Michael Lawrence smashed through to touch down. Foster sent the conversion sailing wide but the men in claret and amber had closed the gap.
The Rhinos forward dominance was starting to tell, with Adam Cuthbertson, Brad Singleton and Keith Galloway driving forward in quick succession. Burrow sent a quick ball across to Lilley whose clever grubber through the Giants defenders allowed Jimmy Keinhorst to brush his fingertips on the ball and on review, apply sufficient downward pressure to bag the winning try. Lilley completed an accomplished performance from the tee and Leeds won their first match of the campaign.
Despite being consigned to the bottom of the league, and now the only club on zero points this season, Giants boss Paul Anderson saw positives in his team’s performance.
“We have to be disappointed but the reality of it is we’ll be fine. That wasn’t a bottom-of-the-league performance.”
McDermott, meanwhile, was pleased to get the two points but remains deeply concerned at a lack of direction on the field, particularly from the halves. “I didn’t think the half-backs did anything special although ultimately Jordan Lilley’s kicking and Liam Sutcliffe’s try probably got us the game.
“I think it’s too early in the season for me to be saying, ‘A win’s a win’. I don’t think it’s about that. We need to string some passages of play together that we’re working on but it isn’t happening on game day.
“I don’t think we’re lacking confidence or are overanxious, I just think we’re desperate. I thought we worked our rocks off defensively but were disjointed in attack.”
Tries: Moon, Sutcliffe, Keinhorst
Goals: Lilley 4
Tries: Brough, McGillvary, Lawrence
Goals: Foster 2