After back-to-back wins including a thumping triumph over Warrington, Leeds fans were reminded that the glory days are some serious graft away as they were soundly beaten by Huddersfield.
But this is a Huddersfield side who mean business. You can tell how much losing the Challenge Cup Final as they did hurt them and they’re harnessing that anguish in the right way playing some ruthless rugby, methodical rugby which has them looking like serious title contenders.
Giants steal Leeds’ off the cuff brand
The opening stages were a case of Huddersfield dominating the middle of the field and rolling the Rhinos down field whilst Leeds were playing off the cuff rugby from deep within their half and nearly had some joy but it was when the Giants threw caution to the wind that they notched the game’s first try as they went left breaking with Jake Wardle whose kick inside was dribbled football style by Ricky Leutele who scooped up and dived in at the corner to reap the fruits of the Giants’ early labour.
Set pattern play picks apart Leeds
After Will Pryce had missed a chance to put the Giants 8-0 ahead, Huddersfield got a bigger reward on the back of the subsequent 20 metre drop out as a lovely set pattern play mixing pace, intent and ball movement sewed together masterfully to put Jermaine McGillvary in for Huddersfield’s second.
Is Ricky Leutele the best centre in Super League?
After scoring a lovely innovative try, Leutele produced one of the assists of the season. The ball was hardly in his hands for a second as he popped the ball onto winger Jake Wardle to score as Huddersfield notched back-to-back tries. It was another try symptomatic of the success Huddersfield’s pivots where having early being offered plenty of space by a dominant ruck.
Chris the try scoring machine does it again this time from 80 metres
Sometimes everything comes off and that was the case for Huddersfield in the opening 28 minutes for the Giants which was embodies by the best highlight of Chris McQueen’s highlight filled season. As Leeds claimed a Huddersfield hand had flicked down one of their passes as they probed, they were forced to simply attack on the fifth and a long ball was intercepted by McQueen who showed incredible pace to finish the chance from 80 metres out.
Leeds sneak in before the break
The first 39 minutes of the game went exactly as planned for Huddersfield. The ruck was slow, their attack was methodical and they simply bullied Leeds and didn’t deny the Rhinos attack to replicate what they did so well in Warrington last week. However, in the last minute Leeds finally generated some speed around the ruck culminating in a Blake Austin break off the back of which Leeds scored thanks to a long ball from Richie Myler which teed up Ash Handley for a try.
Leeds pull another back
The Rhinos weathered the storm at the start of the second half with a lot more defensive resolve on their own line. They then managed to get themselves another try as Austin’s high kick was tapped back by Ash Handley to Cameron Smith whose huge ball out wide put Liam Sutcliffe in for a score.
Josh Jones wraps it up
There was a touch of doubt creeping in when Leeds made it 22-10 however a penalty and a Josh Jones try ensured that doubt was stamped out as Huddersfield showed the resolve of Champions. Jones’ try came from a lovely intercept from Tui Lolohea before Jones showed great strength to get the ball down.
Possession is nine tenths of the law
Leeds finally showed what they could do with the ball last week against Warrington. Potentially a threat then to the Giants? Their solution – deny them the ball. Huddersfield were exceptional at making sure Leeds had very little of the ball and very little of the ball in good areas sapping Leeds of any agency in the game.
Rhinos lack Leeming
It didn’t take long for it to become abundantly clear that Leeds were going to miss skipper Kruise Leeming – who was absent due to illness – who was man of the match against Warrington. The Giants were potent in creating a very slow ruck which sapped some of the Rhinos’ attacking potential but had Leeming figured at nine it could have been a very different story. Instead, Leeds had loose-forward Jarrod O’Connor at nine and despite real endeavour he struggled to have the same effectiveness that Leeming brings which is understandable. Perhaps Rohan Smith should’ve started Brad Dwyer? hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Giants first 40 the stuff of Champions
The thing that has made St Helens unstoppable in recent years is dominance down the middle, a methodical approach and the ability to slow down the opposition. But also an ability to play with width with the ball and score lovely tries. The Giants demonstrated all these things in abundance in the first 40.
That said, we should also commend Huddersfield’s character in the second 40. The game did get a touch messy and a little bit fiery in the second 40. Also the Rhinos demonstrated some real resurgence. Despite this, the Giants kept getting through their sets and kept Leeds pinned in their own half. This was all down despite having to make changes to their spine following Jack Cogger’s injury which saw Ash Golding move to fullback and Tui Lolohea come into the halves. It also meant Danny Levi had to do more minutes.
Work to be done for Rohan
There was a suspicion that Leeds had finally clicked last week when they battered Warrington 40-4 last week but, although last week represented a significant stride forward, any notion that Leeds were close to being the finished article were naïve. There’s still certainly work to be done for Rohan Smith at Headingley, but even in a comprehensive defeat they showed glimpses that his Rhinos revolution is having an effect. Although they weren’t as clinical as last week, Leeds were again innovative in attack and showed some real resolve in the second 40 to ensure they were not entirely blown away. After all they won the second half 12-8.
6 Tui Lolohea – 9
2 Jermaine McGillvary – 8
21 Leroy Cudjoe – 8
4 Ricky Leutele – 9
3 Jake Wardle – 8
1 Will Pryce – 8
16 Jack Cogger – 7
20 Oliver Wilson – 7
9 Danny Levi – 8
10 Michael Lawrence – 7
11 Josh Jones – 8
12 Chris McQueen – 9
14 Matty English – 9
5 Ash Golding – 7
15 Joe Greenwood – 7
17 Owen Trout – 7
26 Nathan Mason – 7
33 Zak Hardaker – 6
2 David Fusitu’a – 7
12 Rhyse Martin – 6
4 Liam Sutcliffe – 6
5 Ash Handley – 7
6 Blake Austin – 7
16 Richie Myler – 6
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 6
24 Jarrod O’Connor – 6
13 Zane Tetevano – 6
25 James Donaldson – 6
19 Bodene Thompson – 6
17 Cameron Smith – 6
3 Harry Newman – 6
10 Matt Prior – 7
14 Brad Dwyer – 6
22 Sam Walters – 6