GIVEN the downpour of near biblical proportions an hour before kick-off last night it was perhaps no surprise this game was marbled through with mistakes.
After all the rain, though, Leeds Rhinos made fewer errors than Hull FC and showed greater control to strengthen their hold on Super League’s top spot and consign the struggling visitors to a fourth successive loss.
It was one of those matches where very little action of note occurred so there was even greater applause than usual when Robbie Ward, an 18-year-old hooker from the Normanton area of Wakefield, scored in the 72nd minute of his Leeds debut.
That sealed the victory for Brian McDermott’s side who made the necessary response after losing for only the second time this season against Wigan Warriors a week ago.
Mitch Achurch, the Australian second row who has to be one of the most improved players in Super League, was a powerhouse up front for them with a series of robust runs.
Joel Moon and Brad Singleton were their other try-scorers but the visitors did not score until Jamie Shaul slid over with just 63 seconds remaining.
The effort is undoubtedly there for Lee Radford’s side, who saw Setaimata Sa come on for the final half hour after signing from London Irish.
But until they find some creative spark from somewhere, the endeavour of so many players will continue going to waste.
The Airlie Birds chief handed Callum Lancaster a surprise debut, the 17-year-old winger who is in his first season at their Academy and has only trained twice with the first-team.
With Jason Crookes banned, Tom Lineham not yet fit and Ben Crooks apparently unable to shake off a troublesome injury in time, Radford opted to draft in the East Hull junior, who acquitted himself fairly well considering.
The man who used to occupy their left wing, Tom Briscoe, had an uncomfortable night – literally when he came to the touchline late on to have a dislocated finger put back in – against the club he left last autumn.
The England winger came up with a couple of handling errors but he was thankful his former team-mates did not have the means to make him pay as their lack of cutting edge was again so obvious to see.
The only score of a particularly scruffy first half came via Moon’s 23rd-minute try and it was befitting that that was suitably messy too.
There had seemed to be a forward pass from Danny McGuire in the build-up and then, as Ryan Hall drove in off his wing, he looked to have simply dropped the ball forward in among the tacklers.
However, there was no whistle and so Moon picked up and went over for his sixth and probably easiest try of the year.
Kevin Sinfield converted from wide out but there was no further score until Singleton’s effort in the 55th minute.
Achurch’s driving run set up the position from where McGuire’s grubber ricocheted off an upright into the path of the appreciative Cumbrian prop.
Sinfield converted again and when Sa spent too long holding Zak Hardaker down – unfortunate, as it had been a great hit by the new signing – he had the opportunity to extend the lead.
Surprisingly, the England captain pulled a simple enough penalty kick wide.
However, he did not make the same mistake soon after when Liam Sutcliffe was interfered with in the tackle so Leeds had that breathing space knowing that visitors Hull would have score three times at least to deny them.
In fairness, the hosts probably did not need the insurance.
Hull had some willing players, not least prop Liam Watts who came up with some thunderous charges, and Gareth Ellis, as industrious as ever in the second-row.
He finally got to play at his former club, 15 months after infamously seeing his Hull debut scuppered by a broken foot suffered the Headingley warm-up.
Joe Westerman stood up again but there was not enough finesse and it was no surprise that, when Kirk Yeaman made a complete hash of McGuire’s grubber not once but twice, Ward pounced on the loose ball to finish things off for his side side.
Leeds venture to Warrington Wolves on Friday while Hull must fancy their chance of emerging from their slump when they visit London Broncos in a week.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, R Ward, Singleton, Ablett, Achurch, Clarkson. Substitutes: Kirke, Sutcliffe, Delaney, S Ward.
Hull FC: Shaul; Colbon, Talanoa, Yeaman, Lancaster; Rankin, Miller; Paea, Houghton, Watts, Ellis, Hadley, Ellis, Westerman. Substitutes: Thompson, Paleaaeasina, Heremaia, Sa.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).