The last three games between the Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants have seen the sides separated by just a single point and with both sides hovering around the middle of the table and fielding weakened teams, there was a school of thought that tonight’s match would also be a close affair.
It was ‘Rivals’ week and there was increased poignancy brought about by the attendance of south stand hero, and guest of honour, Rob Burrow who was taking the opportunity to launch his book ‘Too Many Reasons to Live’.
While a win wouldn’t make the Giants mathematically safe from relegation in reality it would take a catastrophe of monumental proportions to see them overtaken by Leigh Centurions, while the Rhinos are walking a fine tightrope to the play off’s and came into the game knowing that a loss could cost their aspirations dear.
Sam Wood spurned the games first real opportunity when he lost the ball close to the Leeds line on five minutes.
A great Callum McLelland dummy and break down the centre of the field saw the half-back find Ash Handley in support to scamper over for the opening try on seventeen minutes. With Rhyse Martin serving a one-game ban Handley had the kicking duties and pulled a perfectly kickable conversion wide of the uprights.
Will Pryce took the opportunity to level the scores when he picked up a loose ball after an attempted Leeds interception and went over in the corner but he was unable to add the conversion to his try, the teams tied up with twenty-six minutes on the clock.
Just after the restart Jack Cogger just failed to ground a kick through and the Rhinos avoided their blushes for conceding back to back tries.
Rob Lui went close on the half hour after taking a Richie Myler pass, the sides still level on the half hour mark.
It was the Rhinos turn to get a lucky try on thirty-six when a Lui grubber kick was hacked on by Luke Briscoe before it was grounded in the corner by Myler. Handley converted brilliantly from the right touchline for a 10-4 lead at the interval.
It was good early second half pressure from Leeds and Harry Newman kicked a penalty goal on forty-nine from under the shadow of the uprights.
Myler was held up over the line on fifty-three when he looked certain to score and two plays later the Giants were penalised close to their own line with Newman happy to kick the penalty goal.
On the hour mark Lui finally found a gap in the Giants line off a Kruise Leeming pass to make the Rhinos pressure pay with a four pointer. This time Newman was unable to add the extras, but the Rhinos were easing towards the win.
Leeds went down to twelve when Zane Tetevano was sin-binned on seventy-three for a late challenge and two tackles from the penalty Sam Wood managed to get the ball onto the ground with a second effort after the Leeds defence initially held him up. Pryce couldn’t add the conversion from wide and there were still ten points between the sides with just five minutes left.
With twelve seconds left Owen Trout managed to win the race to ground a kick-chase as he outpaced Luke Briscoe. Pryce was again off target and with one second remaining on the clock the Giants knocked-on on the kick off return to lose by 18-12.
The Rhinos dominated large periods of the game, but their scoring was kept in check by a decent Giants defence. Both sides were dysfunctional with players out of position and unfamiliar with the roles which their coaches had asked of them. The Rhinos charge for the play-offs continued but any chance of the Giants making the top five now seems to have ebbed away.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (T), Briscoe L, Newman (2G), Briscoe T, Handley (G), McLelland (T), Lui (T), Thompson, Leeming, Tetevano (SB on 73), Gannon, Donaldson, O’Connor. Subs: Holroyd, Dwyer, Vuniyayawa, Walters.
Huddersfield Giants: Golding, Cudjoe, Wardle, Wood (T), Senior, Cogger, Pryce (T), Trout (T), Peats, Wilson, Jones, Greenwood, Yates. Subs: English, Russell, Hewitt, Peteru.
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 8-4, 10-4 : HT : 12-4, 14-4, 18-4, 18-8, 18-12 : FT.