In 2022, Leeds Rhinos defeated Wigan Warriors in the Super League semi finals to book their place in a Grand Final as things finally looked to be picking up for the club after five years in the wilderness.
However, as they were beaten 50-0 on Saturday by the same opponents it seems the Rhinos are a long way off from where they want to be.
After the match, Rohan Smith said on Sky Sports:
“We weren’t good enough with possession and got beaten to the bouncing ball and were put on the back foot.
“We had a lot of young players today and it is very difficult to play against a red hot team like that.
“It will be tough to get back up from that. We have to focus on the next two fixtures.”
Asked about the club’s play off hopes, Smith said: “I’d imagine it is over. I’ve not had a look yet.
He did say the Rhinos were good in some areas:
“We’ve done a lot of decent things today, we actually defended Field and French really well today.
“They’re a good team at full strength and we’re not.
“When you build something you have to expect some suffering.
“We have had a lot of challenges this year and we have tackled them really well.
“There is always things and need to change no matter where you are. We are going to have a different roster, Round One next year will look a lot different.
“We have backed a lot of players to improve and they will do.
“You have to front up to that.”
He also spoke about the fans: “The fans have been unbelievable through the highs and lows. Many of them were still cheering at the end and respecting the effort.”
He also explained why 2023 has been the way it is: “The fans know what is going on and the transition going on. But there is a lot to do and it will take some time.”
The opening exchanges were scrappy but the highlight saw Kai Pearce-Paul break free however just five yards out the second rower slipped and he fell short of the line.
Jack Sinfield played for a big hit on Pearce-Paul with the ball eventually being dropped. Harry Newman scooped up and ran through but Sinfield was adjudged to have knocked on in the tackle, Leeds earning a penalty rather than the opening four points.
Leeds squandered territory before indiscipline granted it to Wigan and a Harry Smith kick was claimed brilliantly by Jake Wardle who outjumped Rhyse Martin to collect and ground, opening the scoring.
Just after the 20th minute Harry Smith played an almost identical kick to the one that saw Jake Wardle score, but the ball was spilled by the Leeds defender under pressure from Liam Farrell and Jai Field was quickest to pounce and score.
Leeds continued to look flat with the game almost exclusively played in their half and a sharp move on the left hand side saw Liam Marshall played in to ground and stretch the game to 16-0, Harry Smith’s kick striking the post.
Jake Wardle is in a rich vein of form and he made the most of it this afternoon with yet another quick move against Leeds’ right hand side of defence, French to Field and then on to Wardle who dived over to make it 22-0 minutes before the half.
It was already a tough ask for Leeds but conceding a minute into the second half didn’t help at all. Luke Hooley’s kick was charged down, Morgan Smithies ran and scooped it up and was supported by KPP who ran it in from 30 metres out to effectively end Leeds’ season.
With Leeds languishing they needed some passion but they got it in the form of Harry Newman retaliating to a Tyler Dupree shove. The penalty had been given for Dupree’s involvement at the play the ball, but Newman could count himself lucky not to see punishment for throttling Dupree in reaction.
After claiming a high bomb from Harry Smith on his own line, Luke Hooley then kicked on the fifth and nailed a 40/20 bang towards the corner granting Leeds great territory only to waste it – a summary of their season.
Jake Wardle can’t stop scoring. The centre received the ball 20 metres out and shaping to play in Liam Marshall carved out a gap for him to dart through and score his first ever career hattrick.