FIGHTING a battle against relegation, Leeds Rhinos can’t afford to be fussy about how the wins come.
Therefore coach Kevin Sinfield was in upbeat mood after his side made it two from two in the Qualifiers with a 48-32 victory at Championship side London Broncos.
The difference between the sides in the end was the 16 points Rhinos scored in as many minutes at the start of the game, through a Joel Moon hat-trick and the first two of Liam Sutcliffe’s eight goals.
Leeds led 28-6 at half-time and 48-10 on the hour, but then suffered a dramatic defensive collapse as London ran in 22 unanswered points in the final quarter.
That took the gloss off what had been a morale-boosting performance from Leeds in the opening 60 minutes, but Sinfield felt a bigger win could have created a “false sense of security” and rated it as a positive afternoon overall.
“I thought we did a really professional job,” he said of the first 40 minutes.
“I suppose I was a little bit disappointed with some of how we played in that second period, but credit to London.
“I thought they had a real go and we knew it was going to be a tricky fixture for us, but overall I am pleased.
“We came for two points and we got it. The minutes we play well for are getting bigger and bigger which is pleasing.
“This was a banana skin given how well London have been playing and how difficult a fixture it was going to be, but we showed some glimpses of some class.”
We came for two points and we got it. The minutes we play well for are getting bigger and bigger which is pleasing.Kevin Sinfield
Moon’s triple took his tally to five tries in two games since switching from stand-off to centre and he was too strong and direct for London’s right-side defence.
Kieran Dixon pulled a try back for London, the Hull KR man’s 24th of the season, which was improved by Jarrod Sammut, but Leeds were ruthless in attack in the opening 40 and added two more tries through Luke Briscoe and Brett Ferres.
Briscoe, recalled in place of Ryan Hall who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Leeds’s opening Qualifiers fixture, scored the try of the game when he collected Sammut’s kick and raced the length of the field.
Rhys Williams hit back early in the second period, but Carl Ablett went over and then Ashton Golding scored two tries in as many minutes. The first was a rare eight-point try, Sutcliffe converting and booting a penalty awarded for a high tackle on the full-back as he touched down.
Leeds made a number of changes in the second half and Moon was taken off at half-time and that contributed to the way their defence fell away in the final 20 minutes.
Dan Hindmarsh, Ben Evans, Williams and Ben Hellewell all crossed and Sammut took his tally of conversions to four.
Sinfield admitted Rhinos will need to improve for their crucial home clash with Hull KR – their first Super League opponents in the Qualifiers – in 12 days’ time.
“There’s clearly some things we still need to improve on and we will do,” acknowledged Sinfield.
“I think for us it [the final 20 minutes] is probably a reminder that we’ve come a long way in a short period of time, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
“We are growing and improving and doing some good things, but we need to be better.
“The two points are important and the result was really important, especially that first half.”
Broncos head coach Danny Ward said: “The damage was done in the first half.
“We were 16 points down just like that and you can’t start slow and gift a team like Leeds field position through errors so I’m disappointed with the performance in the first half.
“We had a crack in the last 25 minutes and it was really pleasing that we were able to take some positives out of it.
“Points difference could be crucial at the end of this and if you’d offered me a win and one defeat from the first two games against Super League opposition I would have taken it.”
London Broncos: Walker, Dixon, Hellwell, Kears, Williams, Pewhairangi, Cunningham, Battye, Pelissier, Evans, Pitts, Hindmarsh, Davis. Substitutes: Spencer, Ioane, Harrison, Sammut.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding, T Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, L Briscoe, L Sutcliffe, Myler, Peteru, Dwyer, Singleton, Ferres, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Oledzki, Cuthbertson, Mullally, Ward.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).