Leeds Rhinos 34-14 Salford Red Devils: Five major talking points and player ratings

Picture by Matt West/SWpix.com - 07/08/2022 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League Round 22 - Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils - Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England - Ash Handley of Leeds Rhinos sprints down the wing on his way to scoring his teams fourth try of the game

Leeds are now in the play-off spots for the first time this season after a terrific win over Salford.

Leeds started brilliantly with three quick tries from Harry Newman, Richie Myler and Rhyse Martin but Salford battled back to make it 18-14 but a strong finish including a brilliant Ash Handley try concluded a massive win over a play-off rival for the Rhinos.

Major Talking Points:

A reminder of the Rohan project
As Leeds stormed into an 18-0 lead, it was very easy to get carried away given the brilliant rugby Leeds were playing in the first quarter. However, it wasn’t plain sailing beyond that as errors crept into their game really opening the game up for Salford. It was a good reminder for the players and the fans after the amazing comeback against Catalans that this is a project and not yet the finished article from Rohan Smith and his team. After all, Leeds only required that comeback last week as consequence to falling behind considerably. Leeds are not yet at the stage of dominating games from 0-80 week in week out. They still have much to learn.

Credit where credit’s due
One of the most criticised players in Leeds’ team over the last two years has been Bodene Thompson but the forward has over the last few months really turned the corner. It started with a move back to his preferred backrow role and a try at Warrington. It seems strange then that this move has reinvigorated him as a front rower. Thompson’s return from a ban picked up against St Helens has seen him become a starting prop for Rohan Smith’s men and in doing so he’s become a great driver of the ball for the Rhinos being an integral part of Leeds’ fast start today.

Ash Handley leads by example
Many have questioned Ash Handley when he’s taken on the captain’s armband over recent seasons and especially when he was made official vice captain for this season but in Kruise Leeming’s absence he’s truly shown his quality as a captain leading by example especially with big plays. It’s obvious that his intercept was a big moment today – clutch some might say – but it was one of many moments of brilliant defence down his left edge against the always dangerous Ken Sio.

Rhinos defence stands firm
Though it may seem strange to credit Leeds’ defence on a day when they were routinely broken apart down the middle by brilliant probing runs from Brodie Croft and Chris Atkin who constantly threw dummies which carved Leeds open from deep, but the Rhinos scrambled well magnificently. Zak Hardaker again showed why he’s perhaps the best defensive fullback in the league with two brilliant tackles but that was just the tip of the iceberg on a day Leeds had to deal with a lot of pressure on their own line.

Best win of the season?
It may seem strange to describe today’s win as the best of the season given the massive wins Leeds have had against Warrington, Hull FC and Wigan as well as the comeback against Catalans last week but the character on show from Leeds today to hold onto the lead against an in form Salford side whose attack was again on point demonstrated a real steel to Rohan Smith’s side in tough scenarios – something they’ll need moving forward into the play-off race.

Player Ratings:

33 Zak Hardaker – 8
2 David Fusitu’a – 8
3 Harry Newman – 9
4 Liam Sutcliffe – 7
5 Ash Handley – 8
16 Richie Myler – 7
7 Aidan Sezer – 7
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 8
24 Jarrod O’Connor – 7
19 Bodene Thompson – 9
11 James Bentley – 9
12 Rhyse Martin – 9
17 Cameron Smith – 9
13 Zane Tetevano – 7
14 Brad Dwyer – 7
21 Morgan Gannon – 7
22 Sam Walters – 7

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