Leeds marched to the top of Super League when they played host to Toronto Wolfpack – and did it with style, and some swagger.
Richie Myler filled in at fullback like a natural, while bringing a half’s ball playing awareness to role; Rhyse Martin notched up a 100% 11 out of 11 goals, all conversions; Luke Gale scored two tries, and had a hand in a number of others to record 1,500 career points in 300 games.
And Toronto? Well they came, they scored two tries and converted converted them, but overall - and especially in defence – they looked too much like a Championship side playing a Super League team on fire.
The signs were there from the beginning. It took just two minutes for Brad Dwyer to cross the line, following a Leeds penalty for a Toronto high tackle. And although the move was sent upstairs to the video ref by match referee Liam Moore, his onfield decision of a try was confirmed. Rhyse Martin added the extras – a feat he repeated for every try Leeds scored – for a 6-0 lead.
Two minutes later, it looked like Toronto had squeezed a reply in the corner, but this time the video ref rejected Liam Moore’s onfield call and ruled no try after great Rhinos defence by Harry Newman.
Instead, the Wolfpack had to wait until after Richie Myler and Martin had doubled the Rhinos’s core to 12-0, courtesy of a skillful out-the-back pass from Luke Gale, before they troubled the scoreboard for the only time in the first half.
Tony Gigot – the French international trialist playing without pay for Toronto – kicked through and Josh McCrone grounded the ball after Leeds centre Konrad Hurrell knocked it down.
Gareth O’Brien’s conversion made it 12-6 and raised hopes of a competitive game.
But it was not to be, the visitor’s defensive frailties meant-one way traffic for the rest of the half, with Leeds running in 24 unanswered points with tries by Gale, his half-back partner Rob Lui, twice, and – right as the hooter sounded for the break Ash Handley, all converted by Martin. That made it 36-6 as the teams trooped into the dressing room.
The second half opened with more of an arm wrestle: 11minutes passed before the first score, courtesy of the Wolfpack’s Wigan loanee Jack Wells. O’Brien’s goal moved the score to 36-12.
But frankly that was it as far as Toronto was concerned. They showed occasional promise with the ball in hand, but played much of the game in their own 20 and made it far too easy for Leeds to break – or sometimes stroll through – their line.
The Rhinos scored at a point a minute for the remaining half-hour of what came close to exhibition rugby by them. Highlights were a storming break by Hurrell, who passed inside to Gale for the half-back and Leeds captain to score that 1,500th point of his career, and a neat interchange between Cameron Smith and Adam Cuthbertson – with a particularly nice offload by the latter for the former’s try.
The other points came courtesy of Cuthbertson himself, Mikolaj Oledzki, Hurrell and the boot of Martin.
Oh, and Toronto captain McCrone found himself sin-binned in the final minutes of the game to round off a miserable night for the Canadian outfit.
Leeds: Myler (try); L Briscoe, Neman, Hurrell (try), Handley (try); Lui (two tries), Gale (two tries); Seumanufagai, Dwyer, Oledzki (try), Mellor, Martin (11 goals), Prior. Replacements: McLelland, Donaldson, Smith (try), Cuthbertson (try).
Toronto: Gigot; Kay, Miloudi, Leutele, Russell; O’Brien (two goals), McCrone; (try) Sidlow, Ackers; Springer, Thompson; Williams, Wilking. Replacements: Mullally, Olbison, Wallace, Wells (try).
Referee: Liam Moore
Leeds Rhinos (36) 66 Toronto Wolfpack (6) 12