LEEDS RHINOS will be hoping their next trip to the capital is more successful after they suffered the embarrassment of becoming the first team this season to lose to London Broncos.
Leeds’s preparation for Saturday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup final, against Castleford Tigers, suffered a humiliating setback as they fell victim to an astonishing Broncos comeback.
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott rested nine members of the team which beat Warrington in the Cup semi-final eight days earlier and fielded six teenagers, including three debutants.
It looked like the gamble would pay off when Leeds went in at half-time 24-8 ahead and were 36-14 in front with 55 minutes gone.
But Rhinos collapsed in the final stages as London scored 26 unanswered points to end a run of 24 defeats this year.
“There were some individual defensive errors, lapses and a lack of concentration – and some soft missed tackles,” McDermott said.
“The team that took to the field was well in command of that game and looked very good for some spells and then went into periods when some individuals were soft.
“Some of our defensive lapses were alarming in the second half, from individuals.”
England centre Kallum Watkins was one of Leeds’s few successes, scoring one try and almost snatching at least a draw when he touched down after the hooter, only for a touchjudge to spot a foot on the whitewash.
Rhinos scored after 100 seconds through Watkins, and Josh Walters and Liam Sutcliffe both went over inside 12 minutes.
London registered two tries in three minutes, through Jordan Atkins and Joe Keyes, but touchdowns by Mitch Achurch and Zak Hardaker left Leeds in control.
Sutcliffe’s second try seemed to have made certain of the points, but Kieran Dixon and Mike McMeeken gave London hope.
Achurch scored a long-range try, but it was all London after that with Scott Moore and Keyes (2) going over.
Goal kicks proved the difference between the sides. Josh Drinkwater landed five conversions and a late penalty, but Hardaker managed just one goal from three attempts, while Sutcliffe booted three from four.
London Broncos: Farrar, Dixon, Mataitonga, Solomona, Atkins, Drinkwater, Keyes, Slyney, Moore, Wallace, Vea, McMeeken, Cooks. Substitutes: Krasniqi, Griffin, Dollapi, Thomas.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, T Briscoe, Watkins, handley, Hall, Sutcliffe, White, Singleton, Aiton, Bailey, S Ward, Achurch, Walters. Substitutes: Kirke, Clarkson, Minchella, Golding.
Referee: T Roby (Preston).