Danny McGuire spent the week plotting the downfall of his former employers as the stand-in Hull KR coach planned a return to the top six at the cost of a Leeds Rhinos side who were struggling to name a squad of seventeen thanks to their most recent tussle with the disciplinary committee.
The race for the six is really hotting up as the season heads for its conclusion in a few weeks’ time, the Rhinos the current occupiers of the all-important last play-off place but with Salford Red Devils, Hull KR and Hull FC all chasing hard.
The Rhinos were without the services of kicking virtuoso Rhyse Martin through suspension, and the pre-match suspicion was that that could be the difference between the sides, but the Rhinos could call on the services of Zak Hardaker.
Leeds gifted possession to KR on two minutes after an awful attempt to play the ball from Ash Handley, and on the third play Matt Parcell scooted from dummy half to score against his former teammates. Sam Wood added the conversion, his first for his new side, the Robins 6-0 ahead.
On nine minutes it was another former Rhino who added to the Rhinos woes when Ryan Hall chased a Jez Litten grubber to ground by the left touchline. Wood was well wide with his conversion attempt, but it was a great start from McGuire´s side, the Rhinos had barely touched the ball.
A superb solo try from Brad Dwyer on fourteen got the Rhinos back into the game as the visitors launched their first foray into the KR half. Dwyer picked the ball up from dummy half thirty-five from the KR line and weaved his way through the defence to score. Zak Hardaker had the kicking duties and added the conversion with ease.
On eighteen there was a carbon copy of the second KR try when another Litten grubber was grounded, this time by Kane Linnett under pressure from Richie Myler and Hardaker. Once again Wood was way from the mark with the conversion, the KR lead now eight points.
As good as they were in attack, KR were showing some frailities in defence. Back-to-back Leeds penalties saw them advance to the Robins twenty before Myler collected a looping ball and stepped off both feet to go over. Hardaker added the extras, the lead down to two points.
The Rhinos hit the front on twenty-eight when Myler went in for his second after taking a short pass from Dwyer who had scooted from acting half back to within five metres of the line. Hardaker was again accurate with the boot for 18-14 to the visitors.
The first half ended in a fracas after a high tackle from Blake Austin drew in both sets of players into a brawl, the referee reading the captains the riot act before sending the sides back into the sheds.
It was a crazy first half, end to end stuff, with both sides picking up major injuries to key staff. The crowd were lapping it up, the coaches were pulling their hair out.
Morgan Gannon gave the Rhinos the perfect start to the second half after the Rhinos were awarded a penalty for a late challenge. The Rhinos crabbed across the field before Mikolaj Oledzki put Gannon through a gap. Hardaker was wide with his conversion, but Leeds were eight points clear.
The Rhinos conceded two consecutive set restarts on their own line and after then awarding a penalty, referee Smith sent Oledzki to the sinbin for repeated infringements on fifty-six, Leeds a man down for ten minutes.
A dreadful error from Hull KR with Sam Wood dropping the ball just inside the Leeds half on sixty-three saw Gannon pick up the loose ball and sprint sixty metres downfield and score in the left corner. Hardaker added the conversion, Leeds with a fourteen-point lead as they returned to a full complement.
Just before seventy minutes, fast hands down the line from KR saw a gap open for Sam Wood to score from ten metres out. Wood added the conversion for 20-28, a chink of light for the home side.
The Rhinos should have put the game beyond doubt on seventy-six but Myler was unable to take a Dwyer inside pass but after some last ditch Rhinos defence preventing KR from making it a grandstand finish, the Rhinos secured an eight point win.
A fourth consecutive win for the Rhinos pulls them clear in sixth place and ensures that they will end the round in the top half of the table. Despite a great start from KR it was the Rhinos who held their nerve, and despite some first half anarchy, took the crucial points as they continue their resurgence. The points may have come at a cost though with injuries to Newman and Thompson causing some concern. KR now really up against it to make the six.
Hull KR: Ryan, Crooks, Wood (T, 2G), Kenny-Dowall, Hall (T), Litten, Minchella, Storton, Parcell (T), King, Halton, Linnett (T), Keinhorst. Subs: Maher, Richards, Tate, Laulu-Togaga´e.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker (4G), Handley, Sutcliffe, Newman, Tindall, Myler (2T), Smith, Oledzki (SB on 54), Dwyer (T), Tetevano, Gannon (2T), Thompson, O´Connor. Subs: Mustapha, Walters, Austin, Johnson.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 14-6, 14-10, 14-12, 14-16, 14-18 : HT : 14-22, (SB), 14-26, 14-28, 18-28, 20-28 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Hull KR - Leeds.
Referee: Jack Smith.