Leeds Rhinos 18-14 Huddersfield Giants: Highlights, player ratings and talking points

What a game. Drama, mistakes, controversy and a superb winning try at the death to keep Leeds in command of the play-off race and also well in touch with Catalans in the race for fourth spot as Huddersfield – who finished the game with 11 men – were dealt a massive psychological blow going into the play-offs.

Highlights:

Leeds continue fast start habit
In the fourth home game in a row, Leeds opened the scoring early on after a superb break from David Fusitu’a who bust open the Giants’ usually strong middle defence. On the back of that Aidan Sezer’s perfectly weighted kick was plucked out of the air by Ash Handley who fed try scoring machine Rhyse Martin.

Back-to-back no tries
Huddersfield must have come close to the longest time to play two tackles in Super League history due to the involvement of the video ref who stepped up to rule out two tries on consecutive tackles. The first was an effort from Chris Hill who was denied by stern Leeds defence before Leroy Cudjoe’s potential four-pointer was denied due to a knock on by Toby King in the build up.

Leutele makes pressure count
A number of penalties and six agains gave Huddersfield a strong foothold in the game as they typically played well down the middle of the field. This eventually paid off when Ricky Leuetele scored. His try came just seconds after he’d enjoyed a bit of a rampage which saw him find himself on the wing a few tackles later on hand to step inside one defender and power over as Huddersfield stretched the Rhinos creaking defence.

Eight not the magic number
After his opposite number Chris Hill had come very close to scoring earlier, Mikolaj Oledzki looked destined for a try after a short ball from James Bentley. However, terrific Huddersfield defence saw the Polish prop fumble the ball short of the line.

Controversial yellow
Yellow certainly was the colour of the night but it’s not a colour Blake Austin wanted to see when he was controversially sin binned for injuring his own player. The incident could’ve been regarded as obstruction but the Huddersfield runner was beyond the outside shoulder. Nonetheless, this close brush with obstruction made the ensuing yellow all the more infuriating for Leeds as Austin was judged to have taken out the Huddersfield runner who fell into Morgan Gannon resulting in a head clash. A penalty was awarded which Olly Russell missed.

Pressure tells
The pattern of the first half persisted with the Austin yellow being the tip of the iceberg in terms of penalties given away by the Rhinos which gave the Giants the ascendency as well as having the South Stand up in arms. Nonetheless, it paid off when a lovely move – the precursor of which nearly carved Leeds open a minute earlier – saw Louis Senior scamper in after great ball movement from Olly Russell and Ricky Leutele.

Myler the magician
Leeds had the perfect start to the second half after spending the majority of the first half defending. They went for an unorthodox kick-off which bounced up into the hands of Toby King who was harassed into touch. From the subsequent set saw Richie Myler dummy over to give Leeds the lead again.

Giants shine with set play
Huddersfield’s set plays were vital for them tonight and they were again after dealing with plenty of Leeds pressure, the Giants got a good look at the Leeds line and a lovely set play was finished off by a powerful Leroy Cudjoe in a turning point in the contest as it saw Aidan Sezer controversially shown a yellow card for a late hit on Theo Fages.

Moment of madness
The Undertaker is famous in WWE for the tombstone piledriver and Chris Hill might just join him after he seemingly picked up Richie Myler after he’d been tackled and dropped him on his head receiving a yellow card as consequence opening the door to pinch it at the death. However, there is an argument that Myler put himself in that position which brings up the topic of play acting which could have been said to have featured from both sides. It’ll be interesting to see what the disciplinary panel makes of it with a suggestion that both could be culpable of some less than honest rugby league play. The important thing in the end is that Myler was not injured.

From villain to hero
After being sin binned earlier in the game, it was Blake Austin who stepped up with the match winning play on the back of that moment of madness from Chris Hill. He was there to support Brad Dwyer and dive over after a typically scampering run from the lively hooker.

Talking Points:

A game of play-off intensity
Both these teams are hoping to be in the running for Old Trafford with Huddersfield’s position in the top six assured whilst Leeds scramble to join them. However, if we do go on to see the pair clash in the play-offs tonight showed that both are cut out for the intensity which comes with finals rugby. It was physical and fast and when it got going in the spells where penalties didn’t slow the momentum there was hardly time to take a breath. A great learning experience for both teams.

A clash of styles
Not only was it a game that demonstrated the play-off credentials of both teams in the way they stepped up the intensity, it encapsulated why these sides are so different but are so good at present. Huddersfield were brilliant to watch down the middle as they punched holes through the middle routinely sucking Leeds in before looking to shift the play. A tornado tearing through the middle of the field. As for Leeds, they were eager to move the ball consistently working the big Huddersfield middles over and over again shifting left to right never a dull moment when Leeds had the ball but the trouble is they didn’t have it as much as they needed in the first 40. Nonetheless, it disproved a common criticism of the current Leeds team that they can’t match sides in the middle. Tonight their go forward wasn’t a problem against a side who excel at restricting it. Why? Because Leeds found their own unique way through the Giants’ core with ball movement and speed rather than size.

Leeds’ ill-discipline
It’s been the story of Leeds’ season and another chapter in the horror story that is Leeds’ discipline was penned in the first half. Partly down to the speed of the Giants in the middle, partly down to luck and partly down to their own errors, Leeds completely undid their own good work to open the door for the Giants to boss the first 40. Though it improved in the second, they again went down to 12 men when Sezer was sin binned. The Rhinos are – in terms of cards – the most ill-disciplined side and tonight didn’t help matters and with two games in the space of 10 days losing players to bans is not what they need right now but it may well be what happens especially with Morgan Gannon and Liam Sutcliffe picking up injuries. It very nearly cost them the game literally with a penalty almost proving the difference till ironically an ill-disciplined moment from the Giants in the shape of Hill’s yellow card switched things up.

Leutele watch
Ricky Leutele won’t be a Huddersfield player next year that much is true. So where will he end up? Well a move to Headingley has been rumoured. Though that seems unlikely, he showed all the potential suitors what he can do as he tormented the right side of the Leeds defence scoring the opening try, assisting the second and being a wrecking ball in general.

Character from the Rhinos
Leeds showed immense character tonight, the kind of character required of any time who want to make the play-offs. They were down to 12 twice, lost two players to injury and were trailing 14-12 with 2 minutes to go but they still found a way to win. Something becoming quite common under Rohan Smith.

Player Ratings:

Leeds Rhinos
16 Richie Myler – 8
2 David Fuistu’a – 8
33 Zak Hardaker – 8
4 Liam Sutcliffe – N/A
5 Ash Handley – 7
6 Blake Austin – 8
7 Aidan Sezer – 7
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 8
14 Brad Dwyer – 7
13 Zane Tetevano – 7
21 Morgan Gannon – 7
12 Rhyse Martin – 7
11 James Bentley – 8
Substitutes
9 Kruise Leeming – 7
10 Matt Prior – 7
20 Tom Briscoe – 8
24 Jarrod O’Connor – 7

Huddersfield Giants
6 Tui Lolohea – 6
21 Leroy Cudjoe – 7
4 Ricky Leutele – 8
37 Toby King – 7
22 Louis Senior – 8
23 Olly Russell – 7
7 Theo Fages – 7
8 Chris Hill – 6
9 Danny Levi – 8
20 Oliver Wilson – 7
29 Sam Hewitt – 7
12 Chris McQueen – 7
13 Luke Yates – 8
Substitutes
14 Matty English – 7
15 Joe Greenwood – 7
17 Owen Trout – 7
19 Adam O’Brien – N/A

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