I don’t think even the most ardent Leeds Rhinos fan would have predicted a 42-12 win over Wigan tonight whilst the more pessimistic Loiners would have surely predicted that scoreline in reverse.
However, the Rhinos laid down a real marker despite missing their first choice halfbacks, almost every prop at the club and their skipper Kruise Leeming.
It was an exceptional showing from Rohan Smith’s men as they continue to seem like a different animal under their new boss playing fast and flowing rugby with real energy which was the key to victory for the Rhinos tonight.
After the game, Rohan Smith spoke about the performance and whether it was the best yet from his boys in blue and amber: “It would have to be amongst them. We’ve had some quality performances, and patches in other games but I thought we were very consistent throughout the game. We defended very smart together. Their opportunities were limited to their most dangerous players. We did a great job in defence tonight.
“It was a good hard arm wrestle at the beginning of the game. We had the first try, it was a contest and it bounced our way and we managed to get six up.
“It was a good hard game of footy I thought for the majority there. They were chasing points and we held our line pretty well I thought.”
He felt the try just after halftime which came from a superb intercept from Ash Handley before Harry Newman burrowed over was key to sealing the win: “It’s important you don’t get scored on just before halftime and then to score first in the second half however long that takes is definitely a theme we’re attempting to work on and then if you can score the last try, if you can do a couple of those things you’ll be in a good position.”
Newman was outstanding as was Richie Myler who stood up well in the halves.
Smith believed however it was more of a team showing but was also keen to praise their depleted middles: “It was a very good team performance. Harry will get a lot of recognition but I think what our middle unit did in that first half, they kept turning up. Sometimes they were marching us down field a bit but they didn’t get behind us.
“We only made one sub by halftime and it allowed us to make strategic interchanges to get the energy strong through our middle.”
The victory leaves Leeds one point off the play-offs but having played a game more than their Super League rivals though at this stage a third consecutive play-off spot does seem very likely for the Rhinos.
Though a ninth Super League title still seems a way off, that win tonight indicated that Smith has the Rhinos on the right track.
When asked about the project at the end of the press conference, he said that the project is “just getting started.”
Perhaps we will look back one day at this win and contemplate it’s significance in Rohan Smith’s tenure. Time will tell.