Leeds Rhinos went into today’s game wrapped up in a battle with Warrington Wolves, Hull FC, Hull KR and Salford Red Devils for a spot in the play-offs with fifth and sixth still up for grabs and opponents Huddersfield Giants knew that as well.
More or less the outsiders in the play-off push, the Giants’ recent defeats have seen them fall four points behind the leaders in the race for the play-offs and that has been extended to six with wins for Hull KR, Salford and Warrington.
Leeds meanwhile went into today’s game four points behind making it a must win for both and
The Rhinos started quickly with a superb break down the left as Harry Newman and Ash Handley combined. With Newman taken late Leeds were given a penalty but the centre was taken off for a Head Injury Assessment.
The Giants’ early cover defence should be commended and it ensured that the Giants got the first try via Sam Halsall.
After the ball was kept alive in the middle of the field, the ball was shifted wide and the young winger finished in the corner.
Sadly the game was then stopped for 15 minutes after James Bentley chased a high Aidan Sezer kick only to collide with the knee of an airborne Jake Connor.
Bentley was stretchered off and placed in an ambulance after a 15 minute delay on the field.
After which Leeds conceded a somewhat controversial try with Kevin Naiqama capitalising on an error.
It would be a similar story for their third try as they took a 16-0 lead with Tui Lolohea grounding a kick Ash Handley was unable to deal with.
The Giants thought they had reached the 20 point mark when a great play caught out Newman and Handley with Esan Marsters trying to squeeze in at the corner but Leeds scrambled well.
Leeds needed to score next and had a decent chance after Aidan Sezer drilled the ball behind the Giants defence and Handley forced a penalty.
Then a lovely inside ball from Walters saw Luke Hooley make it two tries in two games.
Huddersfield again looked set to score in the corner but again Leeds scrambled well to deny the try and an incident broke out leading to a yellow card for Sam Hewitt seconds after coming on.
Without him, Sam Hewitt was able to tear through the Giants defence and find Handley in the corner to score and make it 16-12.
Leeds thought they were going to score again as Cameron Smith tore through the middle and found Sam Lisone in support. Lisone looked to wrong foot Sam Halsall and caught him with an elbow.
After that, Jake Connor kicked a brilliant 40/20 and from there the Giants earned a penalty and extended their lead to 18-12.
The Giants twice thought they scored in the same set in the second half as they looked to wrap up the win but were denied by official Marcus Griffiths.
The Giants though did get the extra point they needed with a Jake Connor drop goal four minutes from time to make it 19-12.
Hoping James Bentley is okay
It was a nasty collision but summed up the commitment of Bentley as a player. All precautions were taken and now we just have to hope he is okay.
Rhinos their own worst enemy
Leeds were their own worst enemy today as they continually made silly errors such as offloading in unnecessary places.
Giants back to their best
This was a simple yet effective display from the Giants, the kind we saw frequently in 2022.
Leeds’ season over
The Rhinos are now four points adrift of the play-offs meaning it will take some turn around for them to pick up a play-off spot.
1 Jake Connor – 8
3 Esan Marsters – 7
5 Jake Bibby – 7
4 Kevin Naiqama – 7
24 Sam Halsall – 8
6 Tui Lolohea – 8
23 Olly Russell – 7
8 Chris Hill – 8
35 Adam Milner – 8
27 Jack Ashworth – 8
21 Leroy Cudjoe – 7
12 Chris McQueen – 7
13 Luke Yates – 8
32 Will Pryce – 7
18 Seb Ikahihifo – 6
10 Joe Greenwood – 6
29 Sam Hewitt – 6
21 Luke Hooley – 7
16 Derrell Olpherts – 6
24 Luis Roberts – 6
3 Harry Newman – 5
5 Ash Handley – 6
12 Rhyse Martin – 5
7 Aidan Sezer – 6
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 6
14 Jarrod O’Connor – 6
18 Tom Holroyd – 5
11 James Bentley – N/A
22 Sam Walters – 5
13 Cameron Smith – 7
20 Morgan Gannon – 5
15 Sam Lisone – 7
25 James Donaldson – 5
31 Leon Ruan – 5