Leeds Rhinos 8-31 Hull FC: Highlights, player ratings and talking points

It was a humbling night for the Leeds Rhinos as they were soundly beaten by a Hull FC side hit by injury across the backs.

It was Leeds’ fourth defeat in five games and was reminiscent of the problems at the club when Richard Agar took over in 2019. A long way off the standards they set themselves, tonight was a dark hour for Super League’s former super club.

As for Hull, the win was exactly what they needed after a disappointing defeat to Castleford last week. The Black and Whites bossed the game from start to finish dominating the middle of the field. More performances like this will see them make the play-offs come the end of the season.

Highlights:

Connor sends Leeds down the slip and slide

By now, we all know the quality Jake Connor posses. But knowing that and stopping him are two separate things. He ran the show tonight especially in the first half sending a clear message to England boss Shaun Wane. He turned Leeds around with his kicking game, created a lovely score for Adam Swift but his first half highlights were certainly his tries. The first showed such skill and composure he had the Leeds defence slipping and sliding around as he walked over. It was the start of a slippery slope for Leeds as Connor bossed proceedings.

Fusitu’a nearly moment

After a difficult first 40, Leeds needed a try or something to spark them into life. They spread the ball routinely in their first set of the second half, eventually earning an opportunity at the Hull line. They then produced a lovely scrum move with David Fusitu’a diving in for a try that looked to be the trademark put down he boasted back in Australia. However, it was chalked off when it was deemed he grounded the ball on the touch line rather than in the field of play. Shortly after Hull went up the other end of the field and poached a game sealing try through Andre Savelio. A similar instance took even more wind out of Leeds’ sails a few minutes later when Adam Swift turned a Leeds chance into an intercept and, on the back of that, Ben McNamara added two more points with the boot.

Talking points:

1. Head high tackles galore
I don’t recall a game with so many head high tackles given. As the debate rages on about the strictness on contact with the head, this was the perfect microcosmic display of the dos and don’ts of the new rules. Both Kane Evans and Matt Prior were shown early yellow cards for tackles that once upon a time would have simply yielded a penalty. From there, Liam Moore set his stall out early penalising any contact with the head prompting the crowd to appeal for virtually every tackle. No matter whether you agree with this clampdown or not, tonight’s game summed it up perfectly.

2. Hodgson calls on big men and they step up
It would’ve been quite easy for me to come here and shine the spot light on Jake Connor, but really the game was won in the pack. With Hull missing a number of key players in the backs, coach Brett Hodgson chose to go with a big team with four forwards on the bench and Ligi Sao, usually a prop, at second-row. This allowed Hull to gain a constant roll on down field with Danny Houghton and Joe Lovodua providing speed around the ruck. On the back of that Jake Connor and Ben McNamara kicked well executing Hodgson’s game plan perfectly and getting Leeds truly on the back foot.

3. Rhinos in reverse?
There was huge hype surrounding Leeds going into 2022. After steady improvement since Richard Agar took over in 2019, some believed the arrival of Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin, among others, would have the Rhinos challenging for the title in 2022. Sadly for Leeds fans, the Rhinos look as far away as possible from Old Trafford and look more like the side Agar inherited in 2019 when relegation was a real threat. We’ve seen Agar turn these kinds of situations around in the past including in 2019 but also last year. However, with almost a fully fit squad at the start of the season, there seems to be no clear cut reason behind their poor early season form. There is a lot of work to be done at Headingley if they want to return to the top. With a talented group of players there’s no reason it can’t be done, but right now as boos filled Headingley, the Rhinos feel real low.

4. Hull need to reproduce this
For all of Leeds’ woes, Hull looked good tonight and executed the game plan faultlessly. Jake Connor was mesmeric as was Joe Lovodua. Their problem in recent years has been consistency and after a disappointing defeat to Castleford last week, this was the exact opposite in terms of performance. They need to reproduce this kind of display week in and week out if they want to achieve their potential.

Player Ratings:

Leeds Rhinos
1 Jack Walker – 6
2 David Fusitu’a – 6
20 Tom Briscoe – 6
4 Liam Sutcliffe – 6
5 Ash Handley – 7
6 Blake Austin – 5
7 Aidan Sezer – 5
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 6
26 Corey Johnson – 5
10 Matt Prior – 5
21 Morgan Gannon – 5
12 Rhyse Martin – 5
13 Zane Tetevano – 5
Substitutes
14 Brad Dwyer – 6
15 Alex Mellor – 5
19 Bodene Thompson – 6
25 James Donaldson – 5

Hull FC
1 Jake Connor – 9
29 Jamie Shaul – 6
25 Mitieli Vulikijapani – 7
4 Josh Griffin – 7
2 Adam Swift – 8
19 Ben McNamara – 8
14 Joe Lovodua – 9
16 Kane Evans – 7
9 Danny Houghton – 7
10 Chris Satae – 9
8 Ligi Sao – 8
11 Andre Savelio – 9
20 Jack Brown – 8
Substitutes
15 Joe Cator – 6
17 Brad Fash – 8
21 Jordan Johnstone – 8
22 Josh Bowden – 7

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