Leeds Rhinos 25 Toulouse 14: Overdue win offers encouragement to new coach

FOR ONLY the second time in 11 games – and first in seven – Leeds Rhinos are back in the winners’ circle following a deserved win over Toulouse Olympique.

Rhinos scored four tries – two of them from lively hooker Brad Dwyer – to the visitors’ three, but were on top for most of the game.

Rhinos totally dominated the first half, but led only 12-6 at the break. Toulouse got into the hosts’ 20 twice, scoring the first time and being held up over it on the other occasion.

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The rest of the period was spent close to their line, but despite all their pressure Rhinos managed only two tries.

James Donaldson scores the Rhinos' first try.    Picture: Bruce RollinsonJames Donaldson scores the Rhinos' first try.    Picture: Bruce Rollinson
James Donaldson scores the Rhinos' first try. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

They extended their lead to three scores in the third quarter and though Toulouse pulled a couple of tries back late on, Leeds never looked like throwing this game away.

This was a game when all that mattered was the result and Rhinos got the job done.

When he watches the game from his home in Brisbane, incoming coach Rohan Smith will certainly feel he has a foundation to build on, although an increasing lack of troops will be cause for concern.

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Leeds had fielded a threadbare squad in the defeat at Castleford Tigers four days earlier, but with four players ruled out from that game – Zane Tetevano and James Bentley through suspension, plus the injured Blake Austin (head) and Alex Mellor (chest) – they really were down to the bare bones and picked up two more injuries early in the game.

Brad Dwyer scores his second try.  Picture Bruce RollinsonBrad Dwyer scores his second try.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Brad Dwyer scores his second try. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Rhinos began with centre, Liam Sutcliife at full-back, hooker Kruise Leeming playing stand-off and 17-year-old Jack Sinfield, in his second senior game, at scrum-half, but had to reshuffle in the third-quarter when Sutcliffe went off, Jack Broadbent stepping in and Rhyse Martin moving to three-quarters.

Tom Briscoe, who had scored Leeds’ third try a few minutes earlier, suffered a nasty-looking injury on the hour so Max Simpson, 17, moved to the right-wing, with Morgan Gannon, 18, as his centre.

Rhinos went desperately close three times in the opening 12 minutes, Ash Handley putting a foot in touch just short of the line, Martin almost getting over from a chip by Leeming and then Sutcliffe being held up at the line.

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Toulouse didn’t get out of their half, barely their 20, until 15 minutes in, but then they scored in their first attack.

Brad Dwyer scores the Rhinos' second try.   Picture Bruce RollinsonBrad Dwyer scores the Rhinos' second try.   Picture Bruce Rollinson
Brad Dwyer scores the Rhinos' second try. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Tony Gigot landed a 40-20 and then on the last he cross-kicked to Paul Macon who made the catch to score a soft try, which Gigot improved.

Leeds’s response was strong. The game continued in the same pattern as Leeds battered away and Toulouse defended confidently, until just before the half hour when James Donaldson powered over from a short pass by Dwyer and Martin’s conversion levelled the scores.

Briscoe looked to have nosed Leeds ahead when he touched down from Leeming’s kick, but he was ruled offside. However, Toulouse failed to complete the set following the penalty, were penalised for dissent and conceded in the resulting attack, two minutes before the interval.

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Sinfield reacted quickly to dive on the ball after his kick rebounded off a defender, wiping the tackle count, then Dwyer threw a dummy from acting-half and plunged through a huge gap, Martin again adding the extras.

Leeds added their third try 11 minutes in, scoring on a last tackle play. Leeming was the creator with a long pass and Briscoe dived over at the corner.

Martin’s conversion attempt was off target, but he took the two with an angled penalty on 57 minutes, opening a 12-point gap.

Leeming, Rhinos’ captain, made the smart decision to take the two and then landed a drop goal soon afterwards.

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Rhinos lost Briscoe who was hurt as he went to catch the restart. The ball went to ground and Toulouse scored an unconverted try through Matty Russell. Rhinos made the game safe 12 minutes from time when Dwyer darted through from acting-half for his second try.

Junior Vaivai scored a late consolation late on.

Leeds: Sutcliffe, Handley, Broadbent, Simpson, Briscoe, Leeming, Sinfield, Oledzki, Dwyer, Prior, Martin, Gannon, Smith. Substitutes: Thompson, Donaldson, Mustapha, O’Connor.

Toulouse: Ashall-Bott, Marcon, Hankinson, Vaivai, Russell, Gigot, Marion, Navarrete, Cunningham, Sangare, Stefani, Dixon, Bretherton. Substitutes: Pelissier, Springer, Pezet, Hansen.

Referee: Tom Grant (RFL)

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