Rohan Smith on the fans, Aidan Sezer and Matt Prior’s red card after Leeds Rhinos’ amazing comeback win

Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com - 16/07/2022 - Rugby League Round 19 - Betfred Super League - Toulouse Olympique v Leeds Rhinos - Stade Ernest-Wallon, Toulouse, France - Rohan Smith Head Coach of Leeds Rhinos

Most Leeds fans will still be on cloud nine after yesterday’s dramatic win, dreaming of Old Trafford and loving being a part of Rohan Smith’s barmy army but Smith himself had the composure to speak intelligently about the win yesterday.

The Rhinos trailed 30-6 and were a man down when Matt Prior was sent off but a Richie Myler hat-trick coupled with a try for Brad Dwyer and a penalty from Rhyse Martin sent the game to golden point at 32-all.

Then in extra time, Aidan Sezer dummied to get himself over for the winning try.

It was a game that took plenty of spirit and Smith believed that this spirit was fostered the last time Leeds were in France.

“There was a lot of spirit in that Toulouse game,” Smith said, “Lots of blokes who were 21 or 20 or under or playing at the last minute so I think a lot of today’s success came from how we handled the conditions that day.

“I thought the game wasn’t really reflective of the score there at times, I thought it was a good arm wrestle. Probably the slowest game I’ve seen this year. Extremely slow and a lot of stoppages.”

He also admitted he was excited at the end of the game but mostly by the way his side kept working to try and find a way to win: “I was excited at the end because we were still full of running. Obviously we prepare to start well but we didn’t quite, we were quite clunky at the start of the game attack wise. We lacked any kind of fluency which didn’t take any petrol out of Catalans.

“But we’ve certainly been training like we can finish games strongly and that certainly came through.”

An amazing team effort, Smith also underlined how much he loves his current squad: “I love the squad that I’ve got and that’s the way it is. We’ve got the job of trying to build our roster but the deadline is gone for this year but the players I’ve got now I love that group and I have since I arrived.

“It’s a journey. It’s about improving week to week. We still haven’t played with our first choice team.

“I’ve been here 11 or 12 weeks and I haven’t had a first choice team to select from as yet, I’m still hopeful that there is improvement in us.”

Not one to single out individuals, he did have plenty of praise for match winner Aidan Sezer: “He’s important for sure as any halfback is. I love Aidan, I’ve had a relationship with him for a long time. His running game is underestimated by everyone including himself so it was nice to see him get another there tonight.”

Meanwhile, he had little to say on Matt Prior’s sending off: “You’d have to slow those down and have a look. The one he got sent off for, if you slow it down up close the one angle we have, the player hits him in the chest so Matt has both feet on the ground – not sure.”

The most important thing for Smith however was to acknowledge the impact of the fans.

After Sezer’s try, the Rhinos went over and celebrated with them and Smith thanked them for their support: “I’ve been around rugby league my whole life and there’s no better fans than Leeds. I knew that before I took the job and they’ve only shown that in my time here, in times of turbulence.

“A lot of them wouldn’t have had a clue who I was, but they’ve shown me a lot of respect and they love those boys in there.

“Super grateful for those that travelled, for those that listened to the commentary, for the people who were at the game last week, the ones who’ll be there next week and the ones who’ll follow us anywhere.”

Lastly, Smith did take a look at the performance surprisingly praising both attack and defence despite the fact they conceded 32 points: “We’re trying to build a game where we can play free flowing footy and that helps when you are chasing points.

“The score board won’t say defence got you home but in the end it did, defending with 12 players for 35 minutes, to chase points and defend the tryline like we did it was unbelievable really.”

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