In a game that saw three yellow cards and a red card handed out, Leeds’ monumental playoff victory in the south of France gave Rhinos’ fans more reasons to believe in the Rohan Smith project and how he is transforming a team that was relegation contenders just half a season ago into a squad that is now just 80 minutes away from the Grand Final.
But is the 20-10 victory the most important, and most crucial win in the time that Rohan has been at the helm?
Smith has led the Rhinos to victory in 12 of his 17 games in charge, including a six-match win streak. However, every win has been different.
From winning big and looking strong in attack against Wigan at home, to the sensational comeback in Perpignan, to one of the worst games of rugby witnessed at Headingley in the victory over Castleford, Leeds have now learnt how to win, in numerous ways.
In terms of attack, the Rhinos played some good rugby. Austin’s high bombs and Sezer’s delicate cross-field kicks to Liam Sutcliffe proved to be the difference between the sides.
Defensively, Leeds only conceded one try. Under Smith, the Rhinos concede 3.2 tries per game so to keep the Dragons to a single score on their home ground is impressive.
Jarrod O’Connor topped the Leeds tackle count with 39. The young hooker/loose forward played 72 minutes of the game and is turning into a star under Rohan Smith.
In terms of importance, it was unquestionably the best win under Smith, with just a semi-final against Wigan the only hurdle between now and a return to the Theatre of Dreams.
In terms of quality, Leeds were clinical but a few missed chances in the first half that could have proved crucial had their defence not been so solid. Aidan Sezer ‘double movement’ and the knock-on by Zak Hardaker could have really set a marker for what was to come but luckily it turned out well for the Rhinos.
It was a performance to be proud of by Rohan Smith, after a couple of matches where moves and set plays didn’t seem to be working. Smith has brought the belief back to the Rhinos fans, and more importantly, the players, after a lacklustre and substandard two/three seasons under Richard Agar.