Leeds Rhinos 22 Salford Red Devils 16: All about the win as Rohan Smith's side pass first test

More than any other time of the year, round one is all about the win.

Leeds Rhinos were far from perfect in their Headingley opener against Salford Red Devils but did enough to get over the line in a hard-fought contest.

With all eyes on Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers on their debuts against their former club, it was two old boys that made the difference for Rohan Smith's side.

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Birthday boy Ash Handley scored a double – the highlight a stunning length-of-the-field effort – and Sam Lisone crashed over for the winner late on to finally end the challenge of a couragous Red Devils outfit.

Indeed, Salford, who have lost a host of key men in recent months and came into the season with the smallest squad in Super League, did not fall behind until Lisone's try 10 minutes from time.

Croft and Ackers were kept quiet by their former employers and there were signs of rust from Smith's men throughout.

But there are no extra points for artistic impression, which will not be lost on Smith as he reflects on a satisfying round one result.

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Nene Macdonald played the role of pantomime villain on his first return to Headingley since going AWOL in the closing stages of last season.

The Rhinos celebrate Sam Lisone's winning try. (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)The Rhinos celebrate Sam Lisone's winning try. (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
The Rhinos celebrate Sam Lisone's winning try. (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

The centre went about silencing the boo boys with a series of threatening runs up against his replacement Paul Momirovski.

Fellow Rhinos new boy Matt Frawley set the tone for a sloppy first-half performance when he failed to find touch from a penalty.

Luis Roberts – a late replacement for David Fusitu'a – gave Marc Sneyd the chance to open the scoring from a penalty after failing to deal with a high kick from the half-back, which quickly became a theme.

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Salford full-back Ryan Brierley gave Leeds a leg-up when he threw a pass into touch and followed it up with a high tackle on former team-mate Croft to leave his side down to 12 men for 10 minutes.

Debutant Matt Frawley takes on the Salford defence. (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA)Debutant Matt Frawley takes on the Salford defence. (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA)
Debutant Matt Frawley takes on the Salford defence. (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA)

After drawing level through a Rhyse Martin goal, the Rhinos appeared set to waste the advantage as the errors kept coming.

Handley dropped Sneyd's deep kick under no pressure and in the next set the Red Devils playmaker threaded a grubber kick through for debutant Cade Cust to touch down under the sticks.

Sneyd added the extras to give Salford an 8-2 lead after the opening quarter.

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The home side's frustrations continued as Brierley's time in the bin ticked down with Croft and Harry Newman enduring some teething problems on the right edge.

Brodie Croft was kept quiet on his Rhinos debut. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Brodie Croft was kept quiet on his Rhinos debut. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Brodie Croft was kept quiet on his Rhinos debut. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Out of nowhere, Leeds were back in it thanks to a lung-busting effort from Handley after the hosts sensed an opportunity from deep. Once the winger got into open field, there was no stopping him.

Brierley returned to the field in time to see Martin level the scores from the touchline.

Just as Leeds appeared to be getting on top, more sloppy play allowed Salford back in.

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Roberts fumbled Sneyd's deep kick close to his own line and the mistake was compounded by a poor defensive decision by James Bentley, the back-rower rushing up to give Oliver Partington the space he needed to dart over from acting-half.

Sneyd maintained his perfect record from the tee and it would have got worse for the Rhinos had a sprawling Deon Cross claimed a kick to the corner just before the break.

Salford went into the interval with a deserved 14-8 lead but it was all Leeds in the early stages of the second half.

The pressure eventually told when Martin dabbed a deft kick into the corner for Handley to touch down.

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Martin nailed the touchline conversion to bring the Rhinos level once again but the momentum quickly swung back Salford's way after Momirovski saw yellow for a shoulder charge.

Sneyd duly knocked over the penalty from an acute angle to nudge the Red Devils back ahead and set up the chance to take the game away from the depleted hosts.

But the Rhinos tend to find an extra gear with 12 men and so it proved again.

Salford found themselves bailing water as Leeds turned the screw and were a man down again when Amir Bourouh was sin-binned for holding down.

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Martin returned serve with another penalty to make it 16-16 and set up another opportunity to take the lead for the first time.

The moment eventually arrived on 70 minutes, the powerful Lisone charging on to Cameron Smith's short ball and proving too strong close to the line.

Martin gave the Rhinos a precious six-point advantage which they did not relinquish, Macdonald going closest for Salford when he fumbled Sneyd's cross-field kick close to the line.

Leeds Rhinos: Miller, Roberts, Newman, Momirovski, Handley, Croft, Frawley, Donaldson, Ackers, Oledzki, Goudemand, Martin, Smith. Substitutes: Sangare, Lisone, O'Connor, Bentley.

Tries: Handley (25, 48), Lisone (70)

Goals: Martin 5/5

Sin bin: Momirovski (57)

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Salford Red Devils: Brierley, Hankinson, Macdonald, Lafai, Cross, Cust, Sneyd, Singleton, Bourouh, Ormondroyd, Stone, Watkins, Partington. Substitutes: Atkin, Wright, Shorrocks, Hellewell.

Tries: Cust (18), Partington (34)

Goals: Sneyd 4/4

Sin bin: Brierley (13), Bourouh (65)

Referee: Aaron Moore.

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