The inaugural Smith family affair saw uncle Tony take the bragging rights as his Hull FC side overcame Rohan’s Leeds Rhinos 22-18. Tony returned to Headingley with his third different club since leaving this part of the world in 2007 and having won a Grand Final in 2003, he handed Rohan his first home defeat and tasted victory again as his side put on an excellent display.
Rhinos were reeling from their hammering at the hands of Warrington last week but managed to put on an improved showing, while Hull FC, who edged out Castleford Tigers 32-30 on the opening weekend, made it back-to-back wins.
Scott Taylor came up with the decisive try, his first since 2019 in a frantic finish - but this was a fine tussle between two talented sides. Leeds were clearly feeling a little panic, and conceded a penalty with a knock on, as the away side punished them in emphatic fashion early on. Jake Clifford drove at the defence and fed 23-year-old Cameron Scott, who found the gap and crossed for his first try of the season. He got up to kick,but just sliced his effort from the touchline wide as Hull moved into a 4-0 lead.
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Leeds haven’t won an official home game against Hull for five years and that dismal record continued, even if in spells they looked like the side we saw last term. The hosts hit back after a period of pressure as Cameron Smith sold a defender with a dummy and then muscled his way through to stretch his arm out and cross the whitewash. Headingley roared with delight as Leeds went in front thanks to Martin’s conversion.
Liam Sutcliffe then celebrated a try on his return to Headingley, having appeared 223 times in Leeds colours, he scored his second try of the season after some clever work from Chris Satae caught the Leeds defence asleep. 6-10 on the scoreboard.
Kane Evans thought he had added another but the video ref ruled it out as he lost control of the ball and Hull FC survived a late flurry of pressure to head into the break with a 10-6 lead. It was just about what they deserved, although the game was still in the balance as the players emerged for the second 40 minutes.
From one end of the field to the other, the Black and Whites struck in the first ten minutes of the second half. Adam Swift, two tries last weekend against the Castlefield Tigers, continued his good early season form as he struck again. He lived up to his name as Josh Griffin burst through and found some support in the onrushing Swift, who gratefully received the pass to make the score 16-6.
Kruise Leeming then struck back when his side needed him as Sangare softened up the Hull defence to free Leeming who had a simple finish from close range. 16-12. Leeds somehow wasted two breakaway opportunities with two mistimed and misplaced passes but the tidal wave of pressure would pay off as they went in front late on.
David Fusitu’a was on the right wing and when the ball was whipped out to him, he cleverly stepped inside to sell two defenders and cross with ease. The conversion put the home side 18-16 up, but in a matter of minutes, the scores were reversed again.
If the home crowd thought they were onto a winner, Scott Taylor, who will be 32 on Monday, proved them wrong with the winner. This Charming Man gave himself an early birthday present as he launched his body over the line, twisting past Cam Smith who was overpowered in a key moment. Clifford converted to restore Hull’s four point advantage as we approached the final hooter. It was all they needed to secure another win and Tony will be delighted with the performance.
Meanwhile, this night will have opened the eyes of Rohan Smith, who now has to come to terms with back to back losses at the start of the Super League season.
Rhinos managed to reach the Grand Final after a similar run at the start of last campaign, but this time around it feels slightly different. This was certainly an improvement on what we saw last week, but Leeds were beaten by a spirited Hull side.
Rohan Smith must be thinking ‘Heaven knows I’m miserable now’ while uncle Tony will be hoping this light never goes out.
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