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Leeds Rhinos 34-20 Castleford Tigers: Highlights, player ratings and talking points

A second half blitz from Leeds turned a 10-6 deficit into a statement win for the Rhinos who under Rohan Smith seem to be heading in the right direction.

However for Castleford it was a disappointing evening as their great form recently hit a brick wall.


Jarrod O’Connor justifies selection
There was a huge discussion ahead of this clash over who would start at nine for Leeds with Kruise Leeming absent. Rohan Smith ultimately went for Jarrod O’Connor who justified the decision with a lovely break that created the position from which his pass and the angle of Matt Prior’s run gave Leeds the opening try.

Mamo magic
John Bateman scored a lovely try for Wigan earlier so if you want to know what happened here go read that and copy and paste. In all seriousness, it was a lovely move down the right with Bureta Faraimo’s kick seeing Jake Mamo score.

Mamo madness
To be fair to Jake Mamo it wasn’t just madness from him but pretty much everyone. First Leeds didn’t opt to take the two and a few tackles later through a wild intercept from James Donaldson. Danny Richardson broke fed it to Jake Mamo who was hunted down by Ash Handley and some how, with the tryline coming into focus but still with metres to run, Mamo dropped it.

Cas pinch one before halftime
On the balance of things Castleford deserved to be ahead at the break and they were thanks to a try from Bureta Faraimo. After Jake Mamo had been held short following some nice movement Faraimo burrowed over from close range.

Sezer starting to look the part
Over the last two weeks, Aidan Sezer has begun to look like the Sezer we saw at Huddersfield and Leeds’ second try typified that. He engaged the Cas line and under pressure produced a superb pass to Liam Sutcliffe who teed up Ash Handley to score.

Sezer really starting to look the part
Not only was Sezer’s passing crisp, in the last two games his tendency to take on the line has increased with him looking more and more of a threat each time he runs. Eventually that threat materialised into a try with Sezer popping up on the blindside late darting through a gap and getting over.

Succulent Sutcliffe break delivers Myler try
Liam Sutcliffe returned to the side last week after missing the defeat to St Helens and showed his worth and he did so again here with a superb break shrugging off defenders left right and centre before stabbing in a grubber kick which saw Richie Myler score.

Forwards combined to pull Leeds further ahead
There might have been some worries from Leeds fans when Rhyse Martin missed the conversion for Myler’s try as it left just two scores in it. However, those anxieties were no doubt lessened when a superb short ball from Cameron Smith and a delightful angled run from James Bentley saw Leeds pull further ahead.

Sutcliffe claims deserved try
After creating a try for Richie Myler, Sutcliffe deserved a try of his own and it came as he showed great strength again to get the ball down after a sweeping move.

Reminder of what Classy Cas can do
After being blown away for half an hour in the second half, Cas did remind their fans of what they can do with a sweeping move of their own finished off by Faraimo in the corner.

Is Ash Handley the flash?
Twice today Ash Handley raced back after a Castleford intercept to force an error. After helping Jake Mamo knock on earlier his chase culminated in a Greg Eden error late in the game. Both alongside a dropped intercept from Mamo are warning signs to Leeds about the risks of their playing style and a suggestion that maybe Leeds need to work on their game management.

Rob Burrow
Easily the best highlight of this game was everything to do with Rob Burrow. Both teams played in Burrow inspired kits, his daughters Macy and Maya led Leeds out onto the pitch and the biggest cheer came when he was shown on the big screen.

Talking Points:

Tigers ill-discipline lets Leeds back into it
Although Castleford deserved to be ahead at the break, they only held a slender lead despite their tendency to roll Leeds down field. However, they were made to pay for not turning their chances into points in the second half when a succession of penalties gave Leeds a route back into the game.

The Rohan Smith effect
You can look at this as a two part talking point. The first exists within the context of this game alone. In the first half Leeds’ attack looked clunky which is to be expected with two key members of the spine absent in Kruise Leeming and Blake Austin and with Corey Johnson making a rare appearance. However, when they came out after a chat with Smith they looked like the attack which put 62 points on Hull FC last week creating plenty and looking to play in space. This speaks to the second point: since Smith has come in Leeds have scored 38 tries which is 10 more than in the boat load of games before his arrival. He has Leeds expressing themselves in the ‘Leeds way.’ Such an attacking turn around wouldn’t have been expected a few months ago today it felt more like Leeds returning to what they’ve do best under Smith.

Sezer steps up
In the highlights section I’ve already spoken at great length about how Sezer has improved recently shaking off his injury and shining in the way he did at Huddersfield. Running and passing masterfully to create chances. What was also impressive was how he – presumably under the instruction of Rohan Smith – became more of a free spirit in the second half popping up all over the field in a move that worked well alongside Richie Myler and Corey Johnson.

Cas capitulate
Having been in such command of the game at halftime in terms of performance and even somewhat on the scoreboard, Lee Radford will question what happened to his side in the second half. Fair enough Leeds turned on the style but Cas seemed to simply shy away.

Player Ratings:

Leeds Rhinos
16 Richie Myler – 8
2 David Fusitu’a – 7
33 Zak Hardaker – 6
4 Liam Sutcliffe – 8
5 Ash Handley – 8
26 Corey Johnson – 7
7 Aidan Sezer – 9
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 7
24 Jarrod O’Connor – 7
10 Matt Prior – 7
11 James Bentley – 8
12 Rhyse Martin – 8
17 Cameron Smith – 8
14 Brad Dwyer – 6
21 Morgan Gannon – 7
22 Sam Walters – 7
25 James Donaldson – 6

Castleford Tigers
1 Niall Evalds – 6
5 Bureta Faraimo – 7
4 Jake Mamo – 7
17 Mahe Fonua – 6
2 Derrell Olpherts – 6
23 Greg Eden – 6
7 Danny Richardson – 6
15 George Griffin – 6
12 Adam Milner – 6
10 George Lawler – 6
11 Kenny Edwards – 6
37 Alex Mellor – 6
13 Joe Westerman – 6
22 Daniel Smith – 6
25 Suaia Matagi – 6
8 Liam Watts – 6
28 Brad Martin – 6

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