Leeds Rhinos were forced into a late change against Leigh Leopards today.
In a surprise twist, winger David Fusitu’a was set to play centre – a role he has played in the past in the NRL.
However, he dropped out of the line up with young centre Levi Edwards instead coming into the starting 13 and young Alfie Edgell coming onto the bench after both impressed on Boxing Day against Wakefield Trinity.
Luis Roberts, Liam Tindall and Derrell Olpherts made up the rest of an interesting looking backline.
After the game Rohan Smith revealed that the reasob behind Fusitu’a absence was an illness yesterday which got worse today.
“The intention was for Fusitu’a to play right centre today,” Smith said He had an illness yesterday and was probably a bit worse today so big red [Luis Roberts] got a shot at centre. I see him being able to play wing and centre.”
He confirmed that he would be in line to feature against Bradford Bulls next weekend at Headingley as Leeds prepare for the new season.
Based on today as evidence, both Leigh and Leeds can look forward to the 2023 season and be optimistic.
Both teams showed graft and work rate and both defended brilliantly. There were flashes of brilliance in attack but often great defence stood up to deny chances.
In the end, the Leopards just edged it.
They won it at the death but started the better too. Ricky Leutele showed why so many teams were interested in his signature for 2023 when he got on the outside of his man and produced a flick pass to put Josh Charnley in at the corner. A statement try against the club who signed the man he replaces on the left: Nene MacDonald.
After being slightly caught out for that try, a former Leigh man made amends with a cracking try at the other end. Quick hands created a bit of space for young Luis Roberts who bumped off the defence to tear through and showed great confidence to dummy passed fullback Zak Hardaker to score on debut and against his home town club.
That battle proved interesting as Leutele made amends. Not the prettiest try this though it followed some sweeping rugby from Leigh which was met by some good Leeds scramble. But after that, their was a longer than usual delay and then Leutele burrowed over.
Leeds then produced a lovely pattern play down the right to take the lead once more. A number of runners down the right, moving the ball at speed, Sezer popped a short ball through for Walters who then offloaded to allow Leeming to score under the sticks.
Mere minutes into the second half, the game burst into life as Leigh put plenty of pressure on young Jack Sinfied who was hit late resulting in a bit of a brawl and a penalty for Leeds.
Around the hour mark, Leigh heaped pressure on Leeds but the young Rhinos stood up to the pressure with Levi Edwards tackle on Leutele a highlight.
Late on Leigh levelled the scores and who else but Zak Hardaker to do it. After a break from Kai O’Donnell, Leigh went out wide and the fullback burrowed over against his former club. On the third time of asking, Leigh finally converted a try through Reynolds to win the game.