After almost a month’s hiatus due to Covid problems the Leeds Rhinos returned to action with a trip to the AJ Bell Stadium to take on a Salford Red Devils side who were looking to join Wakefield on three wins from eleven games, after the West Yorkshire side shocked the Wigan Warriors on Thursday evening.
The game had been re-arranged from Friday night to allow Leeds to release players for the England game, and coach Agar named Gale, Leeming, Prior and Oledzki in his starting line-up all four backing up from their representative duty.
The Red Devils had a six-point start on the coupon, the Rhinos favourites for the win, but neither side would improve their league table position by taking the win.
It was an end to end opening with both sides having, and blowing, chances. The frustration at a scoreless game boiled over on fifteen with all players getting involved in a mass brawl after Konrad Hurrell was punched to the ground by Lee Mossop. Mossop was red carded by referee Hicks, left with little option, and he was joined by Rhinos Bodene Thompson for running in. Hurrell off for a head impact assessment, which he failed and was side lined for the rest of the game.
Within a minute the Rhinos hit the front as Jack Broadbent went over in the corner for a 4-0 lead after a nice passing move ended in the hands of the winger. Rhyse Martin added the conversion.
On twenty-one minutes Jack Wells was sin-binned for lifting in the tackle, the Red Devils down to eleven players.
The Rhinos second came on twenty-three with Tom Briscoe sliding over the line on his knees after good work from the Leeds forwards made space for Richie Myler to put in the telling pass. Martin couldn’t add the conversion, Leeds 10-0 ahead.
After a wayward Kruise Leeming pass, an eighty-metre intercept try from Chris Atkin on twenty-seven got the eleven met right back in the and stunned the Rhinos who were struggling to take advantage. Atkin added the conversion to reduce the arrears to four points as the Red Devils returned to twelve men.
With six minutes of the half remaining Dec Patton kicked a penalty goal to reduce the margin to just two points.
Three minutes from the break Richie Myler scored an important try as Leeds moved the ball to the right, Myler stepped past Costello and went in for the try. This time Martin added the conversion and from the kick-off return Myler went in again, King Vuniwayaya making the space and find Alex Matty Mellor to make a half break before finding his full-back to go in. Martin’s goal made it 22-8 to the Rhinos at the interval.
Three minutes after the restart hostilities broke out again, Luke Gale and Ryan Lannon the main protagonists, both being shown the yellow card by the referee and probably lucky it wasn’t red. There really was some bad blood between the players.
As he did in the first half, Broadbent went over in the corner for his second of the game in a move which he’d started. Martin’s kick went under the crossbar, Leeds 26-8 ahead.
The Rhinos took the game beyond any doubt on fifty-seven when the ball was moved through a number of pairs of hands and finally from Matt Prior into those of Leeming who threw a dummy and went over the line to ground the ball after a struggle. Martin added the goal for 32-8.
Luke Gale got the Rhinos seventh try of the afternoon, spinning over the line after an interplay with Luke Gale and managing to shrug off the Morgan Escare tackle. Martin added the conversion, the Rhinos thirty points ahead.
A solo try from Escare on seventy-three, leaving attempted tacklers in his wake, brought some late joy to the home supporters. Myler sustained a hand injury in attempting to stop Escare, the doctor leading him off the field. The conversion was missed, the Rhinos with a 38-12 win.
The Rhinos triumphed in a bad-tempered affair to take up where they left off a month ago with another victory to help in their quest for a play-off place. The Red Devils never managed to get started in a game where referee Hicks was liberal with the brandishing of cards. It wasn’t a pretty watch with plenty of errors from both sides. Leeds will be happy with the points but probably not want to reflect on the performance.
Salford Red Devils: Lolohea, Escare (T), Burgess, Costello, Williams, Patton (G), Atkin (T, G), Mossop (SO on 15), Ackers, Wells (SB on 21), Livett, Roberts, Taylor. Subs: Ormondroyd, Johnson, Lannon (SB on 43), Luckley.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler (2T), Broadbent (2T), Briscoe T (T), Hurrell, Briscoe L, Gale (T, SB on 43), Leeming (T), Oledzki, Dwyer, Prior, Mellor, Martin (5G), Thompson (SO on 15). Subs: Holroyd, Vuniyayawa, Gannon, Donaldson.
Referee: Rob Hicks.
Score Progression: (SO), (SO), 0-4, 0-6, (SB), 0-10, 4-10, 6-10, 8-10, 8-14, 8-16, 8-20, 8-22 : HT : (SB), (SB), 8-26, 8-30, 8-32, 8-36, 8-38, 12-38 : FT.