QUANTITY won out over quality at Headingley last night as Leeds Rhinos beat Leigh Centurions in a poor game.
Twelve of Rhinos’ 17 were playing their third game in eight days, one fewer than Leigh who were on a similar schedule.
Both sides put in a huge effort, but skill levels were low and there was little entertainment on show for the 13,445 crowd.
Referee James Child obviously had an eye on player welfare and ensured there were regular breaks in play – blowing his whistle 13 times for penalties in the first half and a similar number after the break.
Most of them were for technical offences, which was probably a result of player fatigue, though Leigh had two players sin-binned for fouls on Danny McGuire after he had kicked.
Rhinos – who won the Bev Risman Trophy – managed just two points in the 20 minutes they were playing against 12 men. That is an indication of how scrappy the game, played in wet conditions, was.
Two-try Adam Cuthbertson was Leeds’s outstanding player and Matt Parcell also had a big game, but it was a case of the team grinding out the win.
Rhinos went ahead after seven minutes, following their first penalty of the game. Cuthbertson was heavily involved in the set and finished things off by slipping over from acting-half McGuire’s pass, though Liam Sutcliffe fluffed the conversion from just to the left of the posts.
Leeds got another penalty from the restart and McGuire and Sutcliffe fashioned an opening for Joel Moon, but he knocked on.
On 14 minutes Jamie Acton knocked on to put pressure on Leigh in their own half and Tom Briscoe went over after finding himself in space from Kallum Watkins’s pass after Brad Singleton had handled and McGuire created the overlap.
At that stage it could have turned into a big win for Leeds, but the visitors hung in. Keith Galloway would have marked his return with a try if he had been able to hold Parcell’s pass in front of the posts after 24 minutes.
It had been solid Leeds pressure up until that point, but Leigh got back into the game 12 minutes before the break, Matty Dawson diving over at the corner from Matty Fleming’s offload after Ryan Hampshire landed a 40-20.
But then Leigh were penalised three times in succession, and placed on a team warning.
It looked like they might hold out, but on the final tackle Burrow kicked left and Moon made an excellent catch to touch down for his 16th try of the season.
Sutcliffe’s conversion made it 14-0 and Leeds went close to scoring a fourth try before the break, but Antoni Maria held Parcell up over the line after a strong run by Singleton.
Instead it was Leigh who finished the half on a high. A penalty carried them upfield and on the final tackle a mix up between Ryan Hall and Sutcliffe from Drinkwater’s kick allowed the ball to bounce to Dawson and he twisted over. Drinkwater added the conversion after the hooter.
A minute into the second half McGuire was upended by Maria following a kick, Sutcliffe converted the penalty.
Moments after Maria returned, Leeds were placed on a team warning after conceding their third penalty of the half, to Leigh’s two.
Leeds’s fourth try eventually came on 57 minutes and it was Cuthbertson who scored it. Leigh did a good job of defending their line as Rhinos kept the ball alive in scintillating fashion, but on the last McGuire slid a superb grubber over the line and Cuthbertson made an excellent pick up, after the ball had evaded Ablett.
Sutcliffe’s conversion made it 22-10
A brilliant try-saving tackle by Maria denied Cuthbertson a hat-trick with 17 minutes left.
Another chance to wrap things up was missed when Sutcliffe was off-target with a penalty, but almost immediately another foul on McGuire after a kick led to Dayne Weston being sin-binned. Sutcliffe had another go and missed again – his fourth miss from seven attempts.
Drinkwater landed a 40-20 and Eloi Pelissier got over the line, but was penalised for a double movement, before Hall made an outstanding tackle to keep Fleming out.
Leigh eventually got a consolation try on the final play when Hampshire’s cross kick was caught by Lachlan Burr and he sent Cory Paterson in to complete the scoring.
Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Singleton, Parcell, Garbutt, Ferres, Jones-Buchanan, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: Galloway, Ablett, Mullally, Handley.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Naughton, Brown, Fleming, Dawson, Hampshire, Drinkwater, Acton, Hood, Weston, Vea, Paterson, Burr. Substitutes: Pelissier, Tickle, Maria, Hopkins.
Referee: J Child (Batley).