Robins flying under Webster
Hull Kingston Rovers blew Leeds Rhinos away at Headingley last night. Capitalising on the champions’ continued defensive stupor, the visitors put 30 points on Leeds in an accomplished attacking performance.
Returning hooker and former Headingley loanee Shaun Lunt was first to score, coming on to replace Terry Campese. A good break from another former Rhino, Chris Clarkson, ended just short of the Leeds line and Lunt wrong footed two Leeds defenders to squeeze through for the opening score. Kieran Dixon converted.
Leeds’ defense was non-existent for the second try, with James Greenwood making 30 metres to allow Lunt to repeat the trick from dummy half, this time running over Danny McGuire to touch down again. Although Dixon screwed the conversion wide, the Robins were 10 points to the good with no hint of a reply from the hosts.
The Rhinos toiled to get good field position, but their hard work was undone when Rob Burrow’s attempted grubber was charged down, allowing Rovers to snatch possession 10 metres from their own line. Two quicksilver passes got the ball to Dixon, who ran some 80 metres, outpacing Handley, Watkins and Hardaker in the process, to add to the Robins’ lead.
Shaun Lunt, who was enjoying a wonderful evening, shrugged off the attentions of the Leeds defenders to scamper forward and shoot an inside pass to Ben Cockayne who roared over the whitewash for another score and more embarrassment for the Rhinos. Leeds finally broke their scoring duck with tries from Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Carl Ablett in quick succession, but any flicker of hope for the home fans was extinguished utterly when Mitch Allgood and another Headingley alumnus, Rob Mulhern, finished the job.
Rhinos need to shake the losing habit – fast
Anyone associated with the Headingley outfit will be horrified at the Rhinos’ performances so far this season. Injuries are no real excuse because Leeds aren’t the only club to have experienced these problems – other sides have managed to deal with absentees and plug the gaps.
Like winning, losing is a habit, and the Rhinos may have to readjust their expectations for the future if these performances become the status quo. Confidence is at rock bottom.
Leeds’ current struggles are further testament to the contribution Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock made to the squad. There’s an absence of leadership on the field, and defensively, the Rhinos look a mere ghost of the side that won the treble. That ghost must be laid to rest, and soon, if Leeds are to salvage something from their season.
Return of the Mack not enough to galvanise Leeds
Danny McGuire returned to the Leeds starting lineup and his presence improved the Rhinos’ attacking impetus. Leeds need leadership on the field and there is huge pressure on the club captain to mastermind these improvements.
Many believe that the best defense is a good offense, and while there may be some truth in that, Leeds’ defensive frailties are plain to see. An improved attack simply isn’t enough to stop the rot, which has left the Rhinos second from bottom of the league. The powderpuff tackling last night is an invitation to any side in the division to try their luck at Leeds and unless this is addressed, dark days like ahead.
Rovers’ return to winning ways tightens competition even further
Super League XXI has truly come of age, and with yet another team raising its game, the competition is closer than ever. Nobody could have anticipated that the likes of Leeds and Huddersfield would struggle as they’re doing, any more than the meteoric rise of the likes of Widnes was foreseen.
James Webster has inspired his players to perform as a unit and some of their attacking play last night was sensational, despite the hopelessness of Leeds’ defensive effort. The Robins are a match for anyone on their day and are clearly enjoying their rugby. At the moment, it’s teams like Leeds that are paying the price for the Rovers’ revival in fortunes.
IN THE SHEDS
Terry Campese’s return from injury was short lived. The former Canberra Raiders halfback lasted just quarter of an hour, before he was forced to retire from the game.
Leeds Rhinos (0) 10
Tries: Jones-Buchanan, Ablett Goals: Hardaker
Hull KR (10) 30
Tries: Lunt 2, Dixon, Cockayne, Allgood, Mulhern Goals: Cockayne, Dixon (2)