Hull KR got us underway in a clash that embodied the Super League’s play-offs rather than the regular season, with their mind on booking a place in the favourable eliminator against Wigan Warriors as the away team.
The loser of tonight’s headline fixture faces Warrington in eliminator two at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, a clash that a fresh-faced Warrington will be ready for, having got wins against both sides this season.
Hull KR began the first ten minutes with plenty of agile footwork and impressive kicking, moving the ball around with aplomb and a confidence that’s been vital to Tony Smith’s side’s impressive season. Leeds’ defence was secure and organised to prevent any early leaks in the game and made sure that any chances Hull KR mustered were snuffed out.
After some resolute defending in the first ten minutes, Leeds stand-off Robert Lui found his way over the tryline, getting Leeds some points on the board against the run of play, using his explosive running power to exploit a gap in the Hull KR line. The extra two points were comfortably dispatched by Rhyse Martin.
Just four minutes later, Hull KR struck back with halfback Mikey Lewis using his trademark speed to accelerate away from a Leeds side clambering back from a misplaced pass picked up by Brad Takairangi. Jordan Abdull obliged with the extra two points and levelled the scores up.
Matt Prior scored his third try of the season just before the half-hour mark after both sides were knocking on each other’s doors. Some simple passing down the line from Leeds saw Prior receive the ball and push his way through the Robins’ line and slam the ball down. Martin made it two for two on the night shortly after.
Leeds carried on from their second try of the night with back-to-back tries from Richie Myler and Tom Holroyd, with the former scoring just as the clock hit the half-time mark. Myler in fact stopped a Rovers’ fastbreak with what can only be described as the ankle-tap of the season, getting a hand onto the boot of Ben Crooks, forcing him to fall and drop the ball as he crossed the line to try and give Hull KR a lifeline. Martin continued his fine form from the kicking tee, making it 4/4 by halftime and the Rhinos fans were more than happy with their first-half showing. As it stood, Leeds were returning to the DW Stadium to face Wigan, to whom they gave their first scoreless loss for the first time since 1992.
Immediately after the break, Leeds continued their rampant running, this time getting the video referee involved as James Donaldson got the ball down on the line itself, directly under the posts. As expected, Martin added yet another two. Credit goes to Richard Agar, getting his team fired up for the last game in the season and making sure that their strong defensive presence throughout the first half was rewarded.
After their fast start, Hull KR found themselves stifled by Leeds’ defensive pressure, causing turnovers via errors and through tackles, with the Robins finding the Rhinos half late into the tackle count and unable to create real momentum going forward.
The video referee got some more use as Ash Handley got on the scoreboard for Leeds, surely ending any hope of a comeback from Hull KR. Last season’s top try-scorer danced down the sideline into the end zone and was ushered out of play, but not before he got the ball down for a sixth Rhinos try. Martin faced his most difficult kick of the night but still made it look easy as he put Leeds up by thirty.
The last ten minutes mirrored the first ten of the game, with Hull KR sustaining attacks and Will Dagger getting on the scoresheet, although it ends up as a consolation for Rovers.
Leeds were clinical throughout their clash as the 36-12 scoreline shows and have shown why they deserve the fifth spot over Hull KR, and they’ll be hoping for similar success in Wigan next week to get themselves into the semi-finals. Whereas Hull KR have a tough trip to Warrington, with quite a mountain to climb to get themselves to their promised land, however, Tony Smith is a good man to have at the helm.
Elsewhere, Salford managed a surprise 26-14 victory over St Helens, Wigan got a home win over League Leaders’ Shield winners Catalans and Wakefield compounded Hull FC’s miserable season with a 44-12 drubbing.