THERE wasn’t really any question, but departing captain Danny McGuire’s two classic tries in last night’s 36-12 win at Huddersfield Giants showed Leeds Rhinos what they will be missing next year.
It was McGuire’s final league game for Leeds before he joins Hull KR next year and he rolled back the years by twice slicing through Giants’ defence.
McGuire is Super League’s all-time leading try scorer and last night’s brace took his total in the competition to 236.
It was also a significant night for Rob Burrow, who will hang up his boots at the end of the season.
His try was his 168th in Super League and he is now joint-eighth on the competition’s all-time list.
It was Grand Final-type conditions, driving rain at times, a slippery pitch and greasy ball and both teams made a series of errors, but Leeds played well – particularly in defence.
Since they trailed 30-6 at half-time against Castleford Tigers two weeks ago, they have scored 92 points and conceded only 22.
Leeds were always in command, leading 16-0 by the start of the second quarter.
Sam Rapira, making his final appearance for Huddersfield, knocked on in the first set of the game and Leeds opened the scoring from the resulting scrum.
Anthony Mullally and Jack Ormondroyd both drove the ball in strongly, then Matt Parcell went blind from acting-half and Kallum Watkins spun out of a tackle to touch down. He also converted from the touchline.
After 15 minutes Ormondroyd’s tackle forced Rapira to knock-on close to Leeds’s line, but Ryan Hall spilled the ball directly from the scrum.
Ukuma Ta’ai went over in the resulting set, but Kruise Leeming’s pass was forward and Leeds went further ahead within seconds.
It was one for McGuire’s highlights reel. He went down the blindside from a scrum 40 metres out. Tom Briscoe was in support and McGuire used the winger as a foil, dummying past the full-back and scoring untouched.
That was unconverted, but Leeds scored their third try three minutes later after a knock-on by Jordan Rankin.
Jones-Buchanan and McGuire worked the ball to Joel Moon, he kicked ahead and Jimmy Keinhorst hacked on again before diving on the ball. Watkins’s goal made it 16-0 after 21 minutes.
Leeds had been ruthless in punishing Huddersfield’s errors, but a mistake by Jamie Jones-Buchanan set up the attack which led to Giants getting back into the game.
Rhinos held out for five tackles, but then Danny Brough dabbed a kick behind the line, Ryan Hall and Ashton Golding failed to clear and Michael Lawrence followed through to touch down. Brough added the extras, extending his scoring sequence against Rhinos to 24 matches.
Brough might have crossed himself just before the interval, but he was denied by Liam Sutcliffe’s tackle and then Lee Gaskell’s kick went dead just before Rankin could reach it.
Giants had a chance to close the gap further at the start of the second half when Ryan Hinchcliffe made a clean break, but Rankin’s fumble let Leeds off the hook; then Daniel Smith burst into open space, but Hall got back to make a try-saving tackle.
Rhinos extended their lead out of the blue with McGuire’s second try. It was another top-class effort, begun and finished by the skipper but with an assist from Golding.
McGuire dropped a shoulder and dashed into space with the full-back in suppor. He took the pass and though Brough made a tackle he got the ball away to the No 6. Watkins’s third goal opened a 14-point gap.
Giants had one more opportunity to get back into the game, a couple of minutes after McGuire’s try, but Hall and Golding forced Lawrence to knock-on.
Leeds moved upfield from the 20-metre restart and Mullally barged over from close range, Watkins’s conversion a formality.
Watkins added a penalty, before Hinchcliffe grabbed a consolation try 13 minutes from time which Brough improved.
But then Sutcliffe’s pass sent Hall away and Burrow was in support to cross. Watkins’s sixth goal completed the scoring.
It was a disappointing performance by Giants, who ended the year with four successive defeats. Hinchcliffe should have scored a second try in the final moments, but Golding forced him to knock-on over the line.
Huddersfield Giants: Rankin, Simpson, Mellor, Turner, McIntosh, Gaskell, Brough, Rapira, Leeming, Ikahihifo, Lawrence, Hinchcliffe, Ta’ai. Substitutes: O’Brien, Clough, Smith, Mason.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall, Moon, McGuire, Garbutt, Parcell, Mullally, Ormondroyd, Ablett, Delaney. Substitutes: . Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Sutcliffe, Cuthbertson.
Referee: S Mikalauskas (Leigh).