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Leeds Rhinos: Fans fume at “clear ball steal” following St Helens defeat

Leeds Rhinos star Brodie Croft.

St Helens claimed a hard-fought comeback win at Headingley on Friday night, coming back from 8-0 down to score 18 unanswered points to prevail 18-8 against a spirited Leeds Rhinos side.

Despite that spirit, it was a disappointing defeat for Leeds who in the first half looked in control of the game, but their failure to post more points while they were the dominant team came back to bite them.

It leaves the Rhinos with three wins from five games, with their two defeats this campaign coming against Hull KR and Saints, having looked impressive in their three wins against Salford Red Devils, Catalans Dragons and Leigh Leopards.

Leeds Rhinos fans unhappy with defeat to St Helens

Though Leeds perhaps produced their best first half of rugby league in some time against St Helens, the final scoreline unsurprisingly left many Rhinos fans disappointed at what might have been.

While some focused on the positives, it was the refereeing of Jack Smith in the second half that left supporters aggrieved as some tight calls seemingly went against the home side.

While St Helens appeared to be gaining the initiative in the game, several pointed out on social media platform X that a game-changing moment happened in the lead-up to Saints’ second try.

Referee Smith adjudged a lost ball from Leeds winger Luis Roberts, though replays appeared to show Moses Mbye steal the ball. The visitors scored from the resulting set to go in front 12-8.

Rhinos full-back Lachie Miller then kicked out on the full from the kick-off, allowing Saints to score again through, ironically, Mbye, a four-pointer that put the game beyond Leeds at 18-8.

Following the game, supporters of the Rhinos were not shy in sharing how they felt hard done by this and a number of decisions in the game.

Though the ball steal by Mbye was a game-changing moment, other Leeds fans pointed to several other decisions made by referee Smith during the game.

Among the complaints included St Helens spoiling tactics around the ruck, something Leeds boss Rohan Smith briefly mentioned in his post-match interview to Sky Sports.

Despite the complaints from a few though, the general consensus among many was that Leeds lacked the consistency to battle with Saints for the full 80 minutes after dominating the first half.

Leeds Rhinos taught a lesson by gritty St Helens

Despite the loss, Leeds showed signs that they can mix it with the big hitters of Super League. In the first 30 minutes, they gave St Helens the runaround. No team has done that to Saints and out-infused them to that level for some time – something Paul Wellens admitted after the game.

The challenge for the Rhinos and their head coach Rohan Smith is to be more clinical when they have those moments. Their all-action, expansive style is one that Sky Sports pundit Sam Tomkins believes ‘doesn’t win comps’, but had Leeds been clinical in the first half on Friday night they would have been out of sight.

If the Rhinos are to be successful this season under Smith playing that style, they not only need to play for the full 80 minutes and be more clinical with their field position and chances, but they also have to dig in defence, and not push the self-destruct button.

Once Saints got the lead in the second half last night, Leeds never got back in the game. They gave away a soft try to Mbye that put the game to bed as the final quarter approached, something they can’t afford to do in these matches.

When St Helens’ backs were against the wall in the first 30 minutes, they were outplayed and out-infused, but they didn’t let the game get away from them, they kept the scoreboard close and didn’t let Leeds get out of sight.

Their ability to do that and dig in when the going got tough allowed them to reset at half-time, roll their sleeves up and have a go. When the shoe was on the other foot the Rhinos couldn’t handle the pressure.

That is the difference between a champion team and one that is hoping to become contenders. Leeds should look at what Saints did last night and try to copy that blueprint, not in terms of style, but more in terms of their ability to bend rather than break when the going got tough.

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