Leeds Rhinos 48 Hull KR 18: Rampant Rhinos ease a step closer to Wembley

Leeds Rhinos' Harry Newman weaves for his stunning solo try (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)Leeds Rhinos' Harry Newman weaves for his stunning solo try (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
Leeds Rhinos' Harry Newman weaves for his stunning solo try (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
IT WAS not quite as convincing as the last time these sides met in the Challenge Cup but Leeds Rhinos’ destruction of Hull KR was impressive nonetheless.

That previous meeting was the 2015 final when the West Yorkshire club inflicted a record 50-0 defeat on the Robins.

Due to the truncated format of this year’s competition, Leeds are just 80 minutes from returning to Wembley for the first time since, despite having played only this one, solitary match.

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They will care not one jot about how they found themselves in the position - receiving a bye into the quarter-finals when the competition was redrawn post-Covid - and, playing in this sort of ruthless manner, they will fancy their chances against anyone.

Leeds Rhinos' Luke Gale looks to evade Hull KR's Robbie Mulhern (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)Leeds Rhinos' Luke Gale looks to evade Hull KR's Robbie Mulhern (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
Leeds Rhinos' Luke Gale looks to evade Hull KR's Robbie Mulhern (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

It was a third successive win and, with such a well-oiled pack allowing Luke Gale to pull the strings, they were never in trouble.

Forwards Matt Prior, Alex Mellor and Rhyse Martin, who all had to miss last Friday’s 13-12 win over Huddersfield Giants for track and trace reasons, returned to bolster them and offset the loss of banned duo Brad Dwyer and Alex Sutcliffe.

In contrast, Hull KR - who only lost to St Helens in Golden Point last week after previously beating Wigan Warriors - badly missed the organisational quality of their suspended half-back Jordan Abdull, even if replacement Jamie Ellis did score two tries.

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Leeds will find out their semi-finals opponents later today, Salford Red Devils having joined them in the draw following a thrilling 22-18 Golden Point win over Catalans Dragons that saw this tie pushed back to a 8.25pm kick-off.

Although the game was delayed, in terms of finding their rhythm, Richard Agar’s side clearly were not.

The game was over as early as the 20th minute when Rovers were already 24-0 down, unable to deal with their rivals’ pace and accuracy.

In direct contrast to recent weeks, where Tony Smith’s side had protected their line with such determination and steel, they fell away too easily here.

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When Ethan Ryan spilled playing the ball in his own 20m, Leeds were too quick near the line as Kruise Leeming slipped Ava Seumanufagi over.

Admittedly, they were fortunate to get field position for their next score, Mikey Lewis’ towering kick being palmed back by Kane Linnett but only finding Rhinos forward Mikolaj Oledski who was trudging back 20m behind.

That, inadvertently, saw Leeds start the set near halfway but Ellis - who was later accused by James Donaldson of biting and placed on report - missed his tackle on Liam Sutcliffe.

The Rovers scrum-half was still backtracking at the next play as Gale exploited the space, darting through before finding Ash Handley to finish.

Martin improved both for a 12-0 lead after just 10 minutes.

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Rovers did manage to apply some pressure of their own, Lewis’ next hanging kick causing problems and Ryan getting half a chance following some slick handling to the right.

But Leeds’ defence covered well and, instead, they showed their rapier quality once more as Gale’s lovely inside pass set Matt Prior into space and Leeming sped downfield.

Matt Parcell brought his opposite number down but Rhinos’ handling as they switched right was exemplary and Tom Briscoe - who scored five tries in that Wembley final five years ago - crossed.

Next, it was one of their tyros who impressed; Harry Newman, the 20-year-old centre already in Shaun Wane’s England thoughts, stepping back infield and showing wonderful acceleration to weave over.

Again, though, Smith will be disappointed with the defence.

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Rovers struggled for cohesion in attack, Ellis’ next pass going to ground but Shaun Kenny-Dowall did brilliantly to catch one of his high kicks on the run and was inches short of stretching over.

For all their endeavours, youngster Lewis doing his best to find openings and Parcell as lively as ever out of dummy-half, it was as close as his side would get in the first period.

Instead, it was their opponents who added to their score in the final seconds of the half, dummy-half Leeming allowed to spin around 360 degrees before holding off four defenders to crash over.

Rovers did get some reward at the start of the second period.

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Seumanufagai was sin-binned following a tackle on Matty Gee and KR soon made the numerical advantage pay.

Ellis, playing his first game since announcing he will play for Championship Leigh Centurions in 2021, jinxed infield and then followed up his own grubber to score in the 36th minute, improving his own score.

Still, even with 12 men, Rhinos proved threatening and the East Yorkshire club had to scramble hard to deny Briscoe a second.

They could do nothing to prevent Leeming getting his brace, Richie Myler somehow finding a yawning gap to race on the outside of a flailing Ellis to set up the England Knights hooker.

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Ellis’ night to forget continued when his next misplaced pass landed on the ground for Luke Briscoe to run in untouched from 30m out.

Jez Litten exposed some rare slow marker defence to get a try back and Ellis did well for his second as the Robins continued to fight.

But Martin rounded things off with a try before maintaining his 100 per cent record with his eighth conversion and this was clearly Leeds’ night.

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