LIAM SUTCLIFFE has come in for some criticism this season, but he was Leeds Rhinos’ match-winner at Headingley last night.
Sutcliffe came off the bench late in the second half and scored the try, two minutes from time, which secured victory over luckless Salford Red Devils.
Rhinos led twice in the first half, through a try and penalty, but Salford hit back to level and then take an 8-6 interval lead with two unconverted touchdowns.
A significant improvement was needed in the second half and Leeds came out with all guns blazing, adding eight points in as many minutes straight after the break.
But they could not kick on and Salford hung in and clawed their way level inside the final 10 minutes.
Both sides missed a penalty apiece before Sutcliffe struck in the final moments as Leeds completed back-to-back wins and began their home Super League campaign in positive fashion.
There was a suspicion of a forward pass in the build-up, but the try was given and Burrow’s conversion secured a precious win.YP rugby league writer, Peter Smith
The game’s first penalty came in the ninth minute, moments after the first knock-on, by Jake Bibby from Michael Dobson’s kick.
Leeds tapped the penalty and on the final tackle Danny McGuire flighted a kick over the line and Ryan Hall rose above the defence to make an excellent catch and touchdown.
Soon afterwards, Jamie Jones-Buchanan was penalised for moving off the mark and Salford’s George Griffin got over in the resulting set, but Logan Tomkins’s pass was ruled forward.
On 16 minutes Leeds were penalised near their own line, the kick carried Salford upfield and, after some nice handling from left to right, they shifted play the other way and Gareth O’Brien ran a good line on to Dobson’s pass for the visitors’ opening try, though he could not covert.
Midway through the half Ashton Golding’s jinking run cleared Leeds’s line and then Stevie Ward burst clear, but was pulled down.
Rhinos got two repeat sets, fortunately off Salford hands, and almost scored when McGuire darted from acting-half, but was pulled down by Greg Johnson.
They also twice forced line drop-outs before Lee Mossop was penalised for holding down Ward – who put in a massive effort –and, after all their pressure, Rhinos settled for two points through a goal from Burrow, who had been unable to improve Hall’s try.
Having scored at one end, Hall prevented a try at the other by getting a hand to Robert Lui’s pass after some terrific Salford handling had created an overlap.
Mitch Garbutt was held up over the line after successive Leeds penalties and Salford went close through Junior Sa’u, but he was barged into touch by McGuire.
It looked like Leeds would take a two-point lead into the break, but on 38 minutes the dangerous Lui got the ball away to Kris Welham and he just held off Golding’s last-gasp tackle for an unconverted try.
Leeds got the start they needed to the second half, with a try inside four minutes. Keinhorst showed impressive pace to hold off the defence after a quality interchange between Matt Parcell and McGuire.
Burrow added the conversion from in front to make it 12-8. That try was an indication of what Leeds are capable of and they had Salford rocking for a spell.
Keinhorst has been outstanding for Leeds in the opening three games and almost scored soon afterwards after stepping through the defence and past O’Brien, but Lui made an outstanding try-saving tackle on the line, though Burrow booted a penalty on the next play to open a six-point gap.
O’Brien’s tackle halted a clean break by Kallum Watkins in the next set and then Tom Briscoe was tackled into touch.
Golding stood his ground to make an important tackle on his opposite number O’Brien and Burrow’s tackle forced the ball loose from Johnson just short.
With just a converted try in it, Leeds could not feel comfortable – particularly with a flurry of penalties going the visitors’ way – and there was a scare 14 minutes from time when Sa’u almost forced his way over, but was shoved into touch by Watkins.
With 12 minutes left Salford levelled through Logan Tomkins’s try, from Mark Flanagan’s pass and a conversion by O’Brien.
Burrow could not land a 40-metre penalty with six minutes left and a minute later Leeds were penalised in possession 45 out.
O’Brien missed and Leeds won it in the next set, Ward, Cuthbertson and Burrow handling and Sutcliffe racing over.
There was a suspicion of a forward pass in the build-up, but the try was given and Burrow’s conversion secured a precious win.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Garbutt, Parcell, Singleton, Ward, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Cuthbertson, Sutcliffe, Ormondroyd, Moon.
Salford Red Devils: O’Brien, Johnson, Welham, Sau, Bibby, Lui, Dobson, Kopczak, Tomkins, Mossop, Jones, Griffin, Flanagan. Substitutes: Wood, Krasniqi, Tasi, A Walne.
Referee: C Campbell (Widnes).