This week’s Super League action kicks off with a tasty-looking fixture at Headingley as Leeds Rhinos host Hull FC.
Richard Agar’s Rhinos got their first win of the season last Thursday at Wakefield and they will look to replicate an impressive first-half showing which saw them blow Trinity away at Belle Vue.
It had been a decent start to the campaign for Brett Hodgson’s Hull before last Sunday as they produced a pretty abject display to go down 33-26 to an injury-hit Castleford at The Jungle.
Given Leeds have had a full week’s rest compared to FC’s four days, it will be interesting to see if that plays a part with the schedule perhaps not favouring the black and whites ahead of this game.
Both sides have important bodies missing through injury and suspension. Harry Newman is out again for Leeds which will see Tom Briscoe return to the centres. Captain Kruise Leeming is suspended so Brad Dwyer will likely start at hooker, while key forward Cameron Smith is also banned for Agar’s side.
Hull also have major problems with Josh Reynolds absence, combined with Luke Gale still being suspended, leaving the Airlie Birds short in the halves. Young Ben McNamara is expected to be the man to shoulder the responsibility of organising the team. Carlos Tuimavave and Jordan Lane are also missing for this one, with head coach Hodgson likely to try turn the game into a forward battle.
Match Preview – Key battles:
Aidan Sezer vs Ben McNamara: Two rugby league careers at very different stages. Sezer has been there and done it on both sides of the world and though he has had a slow start to life at Headingley, we’ll likely start seeing his class on a consistent basis as he settles down in a Rhinos shirt. As for McNamara, the start of this season has seen him play more minutes than he could have imagined, partnering Josh Reynolds in the halves due to Gale’s suspension. He won’t even have Reynolds next to him on Thursday though, so it will be the ultimate test of the 20-year-old’s ability, especially facing up to the experience of Sezer.
Brad Dwyer vs Danny Houghton: Dwyer will get a rare start for Leeds on Thursday following Leeming’s suspension. The energetic n0.9 has made a home for himself at Headingley and will relish the chance to potentially play a full 80 minutes against a former Man of Steel. If Hull stand any chance in this one they will need Houghton to be at his best as he takes on added responsibility due to the absence of Reynolds and Gale. Known for his ability to control games from the ruck area, we could see a classic performance from Houghton in this one with more runs, kicks and passes from dummy-half than we’re used to.
Where the game will be won and lost:
Leeds must fancy their chances of making it back-to-back wins here. Though both teams have problems, Leeds are able to cover theirs better and the lack of a dominant halfback in the Hull squad will surely make it difficult for the visitors even if they win the forward battle. The Rhinos have the better team on paper and with the extra rest, they should have enough to win this game.
Score prediction: Leeds Rhinos 32-16 Hull FC