Leeds 10 Hull KR 30: Lunt piles on agony for Rhinos strugglers

Jamie Jones-Buchanan's early charge is chased down by Robbie Mulhern.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Jamie Jones-Buchanan's early charge is chased down by Robbie Mulhern. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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SHAUN LUNT scored two tries and inspired Hull KR to a brilliant win at his former club, sending abject defending champions Leeds Rhinos into new levels of chaos.

The former England hooker won a Grand Final while on a season-long loan at Headingley in 2012 but, for all disillusioned Leeds fans, that must feel like an eternity ago now.

They are fast lurching towards their worst start to a Super League season, which occurred during the competition’s inaugural campaign of 1996.

Twenty years ago, they lost eight of their first 10 games and finished 10th. They have lost seven of their opening nine now and the last two have been at home to last year’s bottom team Wakefield Trinity and Rovers, who they beat 50-0 in the Challenge Cup final when they last met in August.

The return of captain Danny McGuire did little to ease the problems and fans vented their anger at half-time – when they trailed 10-0 – and again at the end.

But what of Rovers? They were outstanding and should have won by more given they outscored their hosts six tries to two.

However, Kieran Dixon could only twice convert before Ben Cockayne successfully took over kicking duties when Robbie Mulhern, the young prop released by Leeds last year, surged through yet more feeble defence in the 76th minute.

All eyes this morning will be on the horrendous lack of form for last season’s treble-winners but, first and foremost, this was an outstanding victory for Rovers’ head coach James Webster.

It is only their second of the campaign, much-needed and much-deserved as they replace their opponents in 10th.

And it was all done largely without captain Terry Campese.

The Australian stand-off pulled a hamstring 42 minutes into his first game back after a knee reconconstruction at Huddersfield and lasted just 14 minutes on his latest return last night having seemingly strained the same muscle.

He was hobbling from the early exchanges, clearly in discomfort and defending on the wing where his lack of mobility nearly led to a Leeds try.

Devastated Campese limped away in back play but, bizarrely, his exit actually aided his side.

Maurice Blair has been a revelation at times at six during the Australian’s absence and he duly switched there from second-row to bring more order and balance.

Campese’s actual replacement, however, was Lunt.

How the KR camp must have feared the same for him too; the former Huddersfield hooker suffered on his his return from injury in that Giants loss, too, his only game this year.

However, Lunt was clearly fit, instantly bringing greater direction from dummy-half and scoring those two first-half tries to get the visitors moving.

The first came after Carl Ablett, a force as ever even in such a struggling side, made a try-saving tackle on former team-mate Chris Clarkson. Leeds could not realign, though, and Lunt exposed them from close range on the last tackle.

Dixon converted the 19th minute score but failed when Lunt added his second in the 33rd minute, this time after thundering prop James Greenwood had done all the hard work with a storming run down Leeds’s alarmingly absent middle.

In between, Graeme Horne should have scored but fumbled after working a smart one-two with Adam Walker from dummy-half on the last tackle again, while Ablett was forced into another try-saving tackle, this time on Dixon after Ken Sio had surged through feeble defence.

Dixon did cross, however, just three minutes into the second period when Walker picked up Rob Burrow’s poor kick, found fellow front-row James Green and sent the winger racing 70m home.

When Walker charged forward again, leaving Leeds defenders on the floor, Lunt broke to send Ben Cockayne in for their fourth try on 55 minutes and a 20-0 lead.

That had been the scoreline after 59 minutes against Hull FC on Good Friday only for Rovers to lose 22-20 so, when Jamie Jones-Buchanan pulled one back for Leeds, Zak Hardaker converting, Rovers could have swayed,

Ablett added a second in the 68th minute, but there was no frenetic finale.

Instead, it was the inspired visitors who finished strongest, Mitch Allgood swatting off woeful defenders for a try and Mulhern completing a memorable evening for the East Yorkshire club.

Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe; Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Handley; McGuire, Burrow; Galloway, Falloon, Cuthbertson, Achurch, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Walters, Singleton, Mullally, Garbutt.

Hull KR: Cockayne; Sio, Horne, Thornley, Dixon; Campese, Marsh; Tilse, Clarkson, Mulhern, Blair, Greenwood, Allgood. Substitutes: Walker, Lunt, Green, Moran.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

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