Despite losing six of their first seven games of this season, Leeds are now just 80 minutes from Old Trafford after a gutsy win in Catalans back yard. In a fiery contest, the Rhinos stood tall in the heat of Perpignan, holding their nerve to seal another memorable win under Rohan Smith.
Major Talking Points:
Catalans as a club have been known for their physical style of rugby over the years, but as can happen the physicality bubbled over into ill-discipline. Michael McIlorum trying to set a new personal record of fights started in a single match, Mitchell Pearce having two spells in the sinbin and Gil Dudson ending his time in the South of France with a red card for sticking his head into Aidan Sezer’s. Not to mention Sam Tomkins’ play acting, which summed up the night for Catalans. A word on the section of their fans too who took to throwing various items at the Rhinos’ players and the officials after the game. Disgraceful behaviour that hurts the name of their great club.
We’ve all been guilty of criticising the officials at points this season, as have fans at every club, but the performance of James Child deserves a mention for all the right reasons. Although Catalans were ill-disciplined as mentioned, Child took very little of it and was firm in his warnings and actions. Particularly with Pearce’s second yellow card he was clear, decisive and did the best he could in a game which could easily have descended into carnage, as it, despite the frequent clashes, can at least be said to have been marshalled strongly by the man in the middle.
You can read my player ratings below, but the improvements of this man over the season are clear for all to see and weren’t showcased more than here. He was a magnet for the angry Catalans players as they tried to provoke him, and early season Bentley would have likely retaliated, but the new James discovered under Rohan kept his cool, and continued delivering metres to further frustrate Catalans and drive his side up the pitch. The improvement in his conduct and play has been immense since Rohan took the hotseat and he channelled the passion brilliantly in the victory.
After finally sacking Brett Hodgson, Hull FC brought in former Rhinos coach Tony Smith this week, and he would’ve been delighted to see one of his incoming recruits, Liam Sutcliffe, bag a hat-trick, including one of the most casual finishes you’ll see from a high kick for his third try. Although Brad Dwyer, who’s going with Sutcliffe to FC, didn’t feature, Sutcliffe once again served a reminder of his capabilities as a centre, and that’s without even mentioning his versatility. We of course trust in Rohan, as you’d struggle to name many things he’s got wrong during his tenure, but Sutcliffe serving a sweet reminder as to what he takes to the MKM Stadium for 2023.
Brightness of future shines again
The continual presence of youth and the level each player is that is one of the most encouraging parts of the Rohan reign so far. Liam Tindall was as solid as houses once again in place for Ash Handley, Sam Walters looked at home off the bench, Jarrod O’Connor with another quality performance out of dummy half and Morgan Gannon was his typically lively self until he went to tackle Sam Kasiano and was thrown into next week, although it’s pretty obvious (and Rohan has confirmed) he won’t be featuring against the Cherry and Whites this week.
FB – Richie Myler: 7 – The former Dragon was as solid as ever and showed why he could have the 6 knocked off his 16 jersey next year. Popped up with a try assist for Sutcliffe’s first try as well.
W – Liam Tindall: 6 – The youngster always has big shoes to fill when he comes in for Ash Handley on the left, but was consistent defensively in tough conditions. Could have offered more in attack though, hence the lower rating.
C – Liam Sutcliffe: 10 (MOTM) – I don’t like giving out 10s but what else can I give? An absolute menace who scored 3 really superb tries, including the most casual finish from a kick you’ll see. A huge asset who’ll be difficult to replace for a number of reasons.
C – Zak Hardaker: 7 – One of the most astute pieces of business in our recent history. Intelligent beyond measure with a ball in his hand an class once again. Stepped in to kick in Rhyse Martin’s absence and was 100% from the tee.
W – Tom Briscoe: 8 – Since returning from injury recently he appears to be a new man. Looked as calm and determined as ever and will be a big miss when he departs. Still very much Super League quality.
SO – Blake Austin: 7 – His typical vivacious self. Cuts a much more confident figure than earlier this season and it’s evident in his runs particularly. Clearly revelling in the jersey and is a pleasure to watch.
HB – Aidan Sezer: 8 – Finally has his kicking groove in Amber and Blue found and looks a million bucks. Kicks created havoc and directly led to Sutcliffe’s third try. Picked up from where he finished against Cas and will be key to unlocking the Wigan defence.
P – Mikolaj Oledzki: 8 – The only Leeds representative in the 2022 SL Dream Team announced during the week, few words are left to describe big Mik. Another top performance from the prop who has to be near the top of Shaun Wane’s list of props for the upcoming RLWC.
H – Jarrad O Connor: 8 – A surprise choice ahead of Dwyer as the second hooker in the 17, he repaid Rohan’s faith and more. His passing was crisp from Dummy half and looked good on the ball. The versatility will serve him well although it seems Rohan primarily sees him as a hooker, which is understandable given his judgement in the ruck was excellent.
P – Matt Prior: 7 – A solid performance from the Veteran Aussie. Dealt with the Catalans well when they came our way and cut a strong figure as is usual.
SR – Morgan Gannon 6 – Feels harsh but he didn’t do a huge amount out of the ordinary before going off after half an hour after a failed HIA. Replaced by James Donaldson and will miss our semi-final against Wigan. Shame as he’s been brilliant recently.
SR – James Bentley: 9 – As mentioned above. Disciplined for the 80 minutes, riled the opposition and consistently made metres. Found his lane in a Rhinos jersey and it’s a joy to watch.
L – Cameron Smith: 9 – Defensively superb, namely the challenge on Goudemand which stopped Catalans getting over the whitewash. Fearless as usual from Smith, who is starting to really show what he can do in a Rhinos shirt and it’s a pleasure to watch.
Sam Walters: 6 – His intimidating figure and energy perked the boys up when he entered the fray, but unable to have enough of an impact for a higher rating.
Zane Tetevano: 7 – There are few things better in Super League than Zane’s cheeky smile, and he has all the reason to beam. Like Bentley, a quality player when he keeps his discipline in check, which he showed here, particularly with a number of strong runs on tired Dragons players.
Kruise Leeming: 6 – The skipper entered the fray late on to add leadership and a level of calm as we looked to see the game out. Helped see the match out with his usual gusto.
James Donaldson: 7 – Came on early and gave his all as always. Not the most naturally gifted but never fails to make an impression by working his heart out.
Rohan Smith: 10 – Bold line up that worked a treat, standing toe to toe with Tomkins at half time… What a blessing this man has been and continues to be. In my first article I said I thought Rohan would be the man to bring us back to title winning ways… And every week he reinforces that view.
Onto Wigan we go.