Leeds Rhinos were dealt a late blow with the omission of seven players in a covid related issue. The late changes, and team disruption could galvanise the squad, or could play into the hands of a Giants side looking to avenge the Golden Point defeat which they suffered at Leeds hands in the opening round of the post-lockdown return.
A win for the Giants would see them up to sixth in the table, snapping at the Rhinos heels. A win for Leeds would make no difference to their league position but would put them in prime position to launch at attack on a top four finish.
It was the perfect start for the Giants when Matty English managed to force the ball onto the ground after pushing his way over the line by the right upright. Oliver Russell added the conversion from under the crossbar.
Leeds got three back to back set restarts on thirteen as they marched downfield. A fourth penalty in quick succession saw Matty English sin-binned for an infringement in front of the sticks. James Donaldson was held up over the line and as the ball was moved wide left Leeds were penalised for a forward pass.
The referee was having a set restart party, penalising Leeds twice in quick succession.But on nineteen there was a long delay while Adam O’Brien was stretchered off the field after sustaining a neck injury. As O’Brien was carried off, James Child took over the refereeing duties from Scott Mikalauskas who had lost his voice. It was all happening at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Aidan Sezer was taken out late by Brad Dwyer after putting in a deep kick. Referee Child awarded the penalty twenty out from the Leeds posts and Oliver Russell took the opportunity to add another two to the Giants tally.
The Rhinos were under almost constant pressure as the Giants bossed the game. A terrible drop out from Richie Myler didn’t make the ten, the Giants deciding to run the penalty but the Rhinos defence held firm and denied the Claret and Gold a second try.
A thirty-fifth minute penalty enabled the Giants to extend the lead to 10-0 thanks to the boot of Russell, Huddersfield in full control of the game with the Rhinos having very little to offer in the face of an onslaught.
Leeds opened the second half in a determined mood as the rain fell. A Dwyer grubber ricocheted off a Giants foot, was picked up by the chasing hooker and flung our to Konrad Hurrell for the big centre to score. Luke Gale added the conversion from wide for 6-10. In worsening conditions the Rhinos were back in the game with thirty-four minutes remaining.
After relentless pressure the Rhinos drew level on fifty five with Tom Briscoe going over in an acre of space wide right after he took a Myler miss-out pass. Luke Gale converted from wide to snatch the lead for the Rhinos.
A high tackle by Lui on Russell gifted the Giants a penalty and the Giants scrum half levelled the scores at 12-12.
Oliver Wilson lost the ball in the tackle returning the kick-off and Leeds then benefitted from a set restart and then a penalty for a ball steal on the line with Luke Gale opting to take the penalty kick but he pushed the ball wide of the near upright.
Gale attempted a drop goal on sixty-seven but kicked wide of the posts. Sezer returned the compliment three minutes later, also failing to find the target with his attempted drop goal.
A Giants knock-on from Darnell McIntosh gifted the Rhinos posession on the Giants twenty with six minutes remaining. Leeds took two tackles before feeding the ball back to Gale who slotted over the one-pointer.
Four minutes from time and a terrific inside ball on the last play allowed Richie Myler to cross but he dropped the ball in the act of scoring under pressure from Ashton Golding, the video referee ruling out the four pointer.
It was a frantic closing few minutes with both sides having chances to score four pointers but the Rhinos held on for a single point win, just like they recorded over the same opposition a few weeks ago. The Giants were head and shoulders ahead in the first half but dug deep and came out in the second half looking like a different side. The Rhinos march on, the Giants continue a losing run with a loss which means making the four looks like an increasingly remote prospect.
Rhinos: Myler, Briscoe T (T), Newman, Sutciffe L, Handley, Gale (2G, DG), Lui, Seumanufagai, Leeming, Cuthbertson, Thompson, Sutcliffe A, Oledzki. Subs: Dwyer, Hurrell (T), Ferres, Donaldson.
Giants: Golding, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle Jake, McIntosh, Russell (4G), Sezer, English (T, SB on 15), O’Brien, Lawrence, Edwards, Wardle Joe, McQueen. Subs: Holmes, Hewitt, Wilson, Gavet.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas/James Child
Ground: Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens.