LEEDS RHINOS cruised into tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final draw with a 58-0 win over Featherstone Rovers in a totally one-sided tie at Headingley.
Leeds scored 10 tries in all, nine of them converted by Liam Sutcliffe, having led 22-0 at the break.
Effectively the job was done inside the opening 15 minutes when they scored three converted touchdowns.
The visitors didn’t recover after mistakes by possibly their two best players this year – Josh Hardcastle and John Davies – contributed to Rhinos’ opening two touchdowns.
They could have thrown the towel in at the end of the first quarter, but scrambled well and tried to play rugby on attack, though nothing came off against a mean Leeds defence and errors proved costly.
Rovers were reduced to 12 men for a spell in the second half when James Lockwood was sin-binned for dangerous contact on Adam Cuthbertson.
That put added pressure on a tiring team and Leeds scored three tries while Lockwood was off the field.
The part-time Kingstone Press Championship side looked very tired after the interval and didn’t mount a serious attack until the final five minutes.
Rovers coach Jon Sharp recalled Cory Aston – on loan from Leeds – and the half-back was involved in Rovers’ only first half chance.
He sliced through and supplied Davies.
The big second-rower forced his way to the line, but offloaded and Lockwood could not take the pass.
Rovers made 24 tackles before Leeds’s first, getting off to the worst possible start when Hardcastle dropped the kick-off.
The centre has been a revelation since joining Rovers from Featherstone Lions in the off-season, but a Challenge Cup quarter-final at Headingley was the biggest game of his professional career so far and nerves obviously were a factor.
He recovered and almost scored twice late on.
Leeds forced a goal line drop out in the subsequent set and though Fev cleverly got the ball back from a short kick, Kyran Johnson knocked-on.
All the pressure paid off when Stevie Ward finished strongly from Matt Parcell’s pass after just three minutes.
Brett Ferres broke his try duck for the season 10 minutes later and he will not score an easier one in his career.
Kallum Watkins was pulled down just short and Danny McGuire kicked infield on the next – and last tackle.
Davies dropped the ball in-goal and Ferres simply put a hand on it.
One of the touch judges stood his ground, but referee Chris Kendall indicated a try and video assistant Ben Thaler agreed.
In the next set Ferres burst into space from McGuire’s pass. He was tackled by Ian Hardman – making his 250th appearance for Rovers – but got an offload away and Joel Moon crossed.
Liam Sutcliffe converted all three to make it 18-0 after 15 minutes.
At that stage if the teams could have shaken hands and called it a night they probably would have done.
With both teams facing huge games next week that would have been in everybody’s best interests, but the show had to go on and Featherstone – to their credit – showed real grit to keep Leeds out until a minute before the break.
It was winger Ash Handley who got over at the corner from centre Ryan Hall’s smart pass after Moon, Ferres and McGuire had also handled.
McGuire had crossed four minutes earlier, but Kendall and Thaler ruled the touchdown out due to a double movement.
Rovers were penalised four times in the first seven minutes of the second half, culminating in the yellow card.
Rhinos scored three successive tries after that. Carl Ablett celebrated his 300th career game by cruising over from McGuire’s pass; Sutcliffe touched down off a kick by Tom Briscoe and then another fine hall pass sent Handley racing over for his second.
Sutcliffe improved all three to make it 40-0 on the hour.
By that stage it was a case of how many more points Leeds would score.
Brad Singleton stormed over for the big prop’s first try of the season and the second came four minutes later, from Moon’s pass, bringing up the half-century.
Hall collected Sutcliffe’s kick with nine minutes left.
Rovers thought they had scored five minutes from time when Hardcastle crossed from Matty Wildie’s pass and Kendall signalled a try, but Thaler ruled there had been a knock-on.
The penalty count finished eight-six in Leeds’s favour (three-two for in Leeds in the first half).
Leeds Rhinos: Sutcliffe, Briscoe, Watkins, Handley, Hall, McGuire, Moon, Singleton, Parcell, Galloway, Ward, Ablett, Ferres. Substitutes: Cuthbertson, Walker, Mullally, Garbutt.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Walton, Johnson, Briggs, Aston, Moore, Wildie, Cooper, Knowles, Davies, Tagg. Substitutes: Griffin, Carlile, Mariano, Lockwood.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).