Leeds Rhinos 66 Toronto Wolfpack 12: Luke Gale shines in 300th game as Leeds ruin Brian McDermott's return

LEEDS RHINOS are certainly loving their rugby league again.
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Richard Agar’s side moved top of Super League with another stylish performance, captain Luke Gale - in his 300th career appearance - leading the way with two tries and another reminder to England coach Shaun Wane of his enduring quality.

However, as ruthless Leeds dismantled winless Toronto Wolfpack with an 11-try rout, Rhyse Martin improving every score, there was so much to like across the field.

Luke Gale races over for Leeds.  (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)Luke Gale races over for Leeds.  (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
Luke Gale races over for Leeds. (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
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It all made for a torrid night for their former coach Brian McDermott, who won four titles with Rhinos before being sacked in 2018.

This was the first time he had faced them since his departure. He will not want to remember it.

Aside from a few hours in February 2018, this was also the first time Leeds had graced top spot since they won the treble under McDermott in 2015 and a first time they have strung four wins together in three years.

It is no wonder the drum in the South Stand beat so emphatically come the end.

Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
Leeds Rhinos' Mikolaj Oledzki (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

Most of the damage was inflicted in the first half.

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Things were bad enough trailing 30-6 but, just as McDermott was about to head down the tunnel, rampant Leeds added a sixth try for good measure.

Martin chipped a kick from inside his own half for Harry Newman to race on to, the youngster doing wonderfully to stoop and gather on the run before sending Ash Handley over.

It was just one of many perfectly-executed plays from the hosts who, at times, played with such freedom and elan.

Toronto boss Brian McDermott  (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)Toronto boss Brian McDermott  (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
Toronto boss Brian McDermott (JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

Take Gale, for instance. On his 300th career appearance, and selected by Wane this week, he produced a wonderful flick pass behind his back for Richie Myler to score in the eighth minute.

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Admittedly, there is an argument the much simpler assist would have been to Brad Dwyer on his shoulder but this Rhinos side is playing with such confidence and expression they feel at ease attempting the audacious.

Robert Lui’s slick inside ball for Dwyer to race through and supply Gale for a try of his own seemed to occur in the blink of an eye without a stutter in sight.

Even on the rare occasions where sets looked like petering out, it turned to gold.

Agar slapped his hand down in frustration when Konrad Hurrell heavily kicked ahead.

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The ball looked set to roll dead but there is no such thing as a lost cause where the hulking Tonga centre is concerned.

He chased hard and forced Gareth O’Brien to nudge out; from the drop-out, Cameron Smith handed onto Lui who got on the outside of the flailing Jon Wilkin far too easily to stroll over.

In fairness, bottom-placed Toronto, for all their limitations, did initially pose a threat.

Indeed, if Matty Russell had scored in the seventh minute, after Lui dropped the restart following Dwyer’s opening try, things could perhaps have taken a different course.

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However, Newman - proving he is not just all class and style in attack - got across to do just enough to make the former Warrington man put a foot in touch and the effort was ruled out by video referee Chris Kendall.

Myler, starting at full-back in Jack Walker’s absence, continued where he left off in the 36-0 rout of Warrington.

He produced a try-saving tackle on Bodene Thompson and covered Liam Kay, too, when the winger also made a promising break as Toronto initially probed well.

McDermott’s side had made it 12-6 when Josh McCrone scored in rather fortuitous circumstances in 16th minute, the ball coming loose as Hurrell and Hakim Miloudi challenged for Tony Gigot’s high-bouncing grubber.

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Gareth O’Brien converted but they wasted another chance soon after when Miloudi foolishly tried barging over from dummy-half on the last tackle.

The erratic French centre is prone to such crazy moments. It must be maddening for his team-mates.

Instread, Gale pressed on with his stylish opener and Leeds, as expected, never looked back.

Lui’s second came after Smith did well to keep the ball alive on the last tackle and the composed Newman - also ‘invited’ into Wane’s England group earlier this week - showed yet more poise to produce the final assist.

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Points did not come as freely for Leeds at the start of the second period.

In fact, the visitors scored first when Jack Wells, the youngster on loan from Wigan Warriors, did well hitting McCrone’s inside ball and fending off Martin to cross in the 52nd minute.

O’Brien improved but Wells fumbled a poor pass in the next set and was then left grounded as Smith forced his way over to resume normal service.

Mikolaj Oldeski had no right to score when charging onto Gale’s inside pass just after the hour mark but the England Knights prop bumped out of four tacklers close to the line to stretch over.

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Hurrell thundered through Miloudi from the restart to race clear and send Gale over for his second try.

That brought up the half-ton before Adam Cuthbertson crossed, too.

There was even time still for McCrone to be sin-binned for a professional foul, ahead of Hurrell charging through more feeble defence for the final try on the final play.

Leeds Rhinos: Myler; L Briscoe, Newman, Hurrell, Handley; Lui, Gale; Oledzki, Dwyer, Seumanufagai, Martin, Mellor, Prior. Substitutes: Donaldson, Cuthbertson, McLelland, Smith.

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Toronto Wolfpack: Gigot; Kay, Miloudi, Leutele, Russell; O’Brien, McCrone; Sidlow, Ackers, Springer, Williams, Thompson, Wilkin. Substitutes: Mullally, Olbison, Wallace, Wells.

Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan)

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