Tight Leeds Win Alters Play-Off Picture
After the euphoria of Super Saturday at the Olympics being blared out across televisions across the nation, a heady mix of Super League action was where LS Sport’s Andrew Belt ended up last Sunday…
MS3 Craven Park was the setting for Hull KR versus Leeds Rhinos which ensured a near-capacity 8, 379 fans turn out for a keenly-contested encounter between the two sides. The two raised main stands were packed with home supporters whilst Rhinos fans were curved round a good 20 metres away from the pitch in an away end reminiscent of Brighton & Hove Albion’s now-extinct Withdean Stadium.
A dominant first-half display from the Robins propelled KR into an 18-6 half-time lead with Michael Dobson the architect of Hull’s best moves, scoring two special solo tries after Graeme Horne had touched down for the first try of the game. Leeds had responded to being 6-0 down by levelling five minutes later thanks to Stevie Ward’s purposeful run and Danny McGuire’s know-how earning the scrum-half a try.
Brian McDermott would not have enjoyed the first 40 minutes of action in Hull as Leeds never quite found their rhythm and KR were able to punish the Rhinos’ creaky defence.
But, playing to win matters so much as the Play-Offs near completion and, despite the scrappy manner of the win, Leeds rallied to reverse the advantage and give themselves hope of catching either the Catalan Dragons or St Helens for an important Top Four finish and, thus, maximise their chances of Grand Final success in 2012. First, Ryan Hall secured the first try of the second half only four minutes after the restart before McGuire went over for his second four-pointer and Carl Ablett grabbed a third try for the Rhinos in a blistering seven-minute spell that put Leeds 22-18 in the ascendancy.
The stunned silence invoked into the home crowd following Leeds’ devastating comeback was interrupted when Zak Hardaker was downed by the Hull defence with a try seemingly a foregone conclusion. Suddenly, the momentum was shifting and the Robins’ started to find their gear again which resulted in Scott Murrell’s perfectly-executed kick being seized upon by Louis Sheriff for a KR try which Dobson converted.
24-22 in Hull’s favour with a quarter of the game remaining. This could have won KR a big win in their bid to compete in the Play-Offs but for one man – arise, Sir Kevin. Kevin Sinfield had played decently but took it upon himself to shoot Leeds to victory, scoring a penalty to equalise with 10 minutes to go and winning the match with a drop goal that gave Leeds the slenderest of victories; 25-24 to the Super League Champions.
KR couldn’t recover from this late man-of-the-match intervention and will have to fend off competition from Bradford Bulls and possibly Wakefield to keep their Play-Off place to give their followers a nervy end to the season.
There’s four games left to go in the Super League regular season and tonight Leeds take on Widnes Vikings at Headingley while KR travel to Odsal for a four-pointer that could shake up the Play-Off picture once more.
Rhinos were more than a shade lucky on Sunday but, as Hull KR found to their cost, they know how to win the big games and the 25-24 result may have changed the course of both teams’ immediate futures in starkly opposite directions.
Words: Andrew Belt