Two sides, both deeply mired in the relegation battle, were pitted against one another at the John Smith’s Stadium as the Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos met in front of a bumper crowd with a crucial two points at stake.
The Giants were looking to consolidate their eighth place and get within four points of the play-off places. Leeds Rhinos could leapfrog the Giants into eighth with an eight point winning margin, providing that Wakefield didn’t spring a surprise and beat St Helens. A loss for the Rhinos could see them end the weekend in bottom place, should Hull KR and the London Broncos win their respective games.
It was a question of who wanted it the most.
A superb Giants defensive effort on eleven forced the Rhinos error close to their own line and at the end of the resulting set of six they forced a goalline drop out. Despite being backs agains the wall the Rhinos managed to defend the two consecutive sets and brought the ball away from their own line.
On seventeen the Rhinos broke downfield through Adam Cuthbertson, After some nice offloading Harry Newman put in a grubber kick which was collected by Cuthbertson and grounded in one action. Rhyse Martin added the conversion, the Rhinos six points ahead.
With twenty-one minutes on the clock Martin fed Tom Briscoe to go five metres, unopposed, to score in the corner. Martin pushed his touchline conversion across the front of the posts but the Rhinos were starting to take control after weathering an early Giants onslaught.
A barnstorming Konrad Hurrell run on twenty-five swatted aside the Giants defenders for a twenty metre sprint to the line. Martin added the conversion for the Rhinos to take a 16-0 lead.
Four minutes from the interval Brad Dwyer scooted from acting half back, went between two Giants tacklers and muscled his way to the line for the Rhinos fourth try of an excellent first half for the visitors. Martin added the conversion for a 22-0 lead at the interval.
Six minutes after the restart, with the Giants pushing the ball on the attack, the ball went to ground and was picked up by Richie Myler who fed Ash Handley to allow the winger to sprint fifty metres down the wing to score. Martin added the conversion to put the Rhinos 28-0 ahead.
The Rhinos should have scored again three minutes later but Hurrell put the ball to ground on a two man overlap.
Hurrell got his second in the fifty-seventh minute as the Giants defence again wilted as the big man pushed through three tacklers to get the ball on the ground on the line. Ben Thaler consited the video referee and he agreed with the decision to award the try. Martin added his fifth goal of the night for 34-0.
On seventy two the Rhinos passed their way downfield before Newman was tackled twenty out. A fast play the ball allowed Leeds to move the ball left with Liam Sutciffe going over the line to score on the overlap. Martin missed the conversion from wide but Leeds were romping home.
Handley got his second on seventy-six to bring up the forty when he found an acre of space wide left against an exhausted Giants defence. Martin added the conversion for 44-0 to cap the perfect day at the office for the men in Blue and Amber.
The Rhinos will be delighted with the points, and pretty happy with a performance, which saw them keep a woeful Giants scoreless. The Rhinos are up to eighth in the league, but still not out of danger, but the Giants now know that they will need to improve over the remaining five rounds if they are not to have a very nervous run in.
Giants: McIntosh, McGillvary, Senior I, Wardle, Senior L, Gaskell, Frawley, Walne, Leeming, English, Ta’ai, Mellor, Lawrence. Subs: O’Brien, Roberts, Matagi, Murphy.
Rhinos: Walker, Briscoe (T), Newman, Hurrell (2T), Handley (2T), Lui, Myler, Cuthbertson (T), Lunt, Seumanufagai, Ferres, Martin (6G), Merrin. Subs: Dwyer (T), Donaldson, Sutcliffe (T), Singleton.
Referee: Rob Hicks.