It was with some dread that I sat down to watch Leeds Rhinos play London Broncos, at times over the years the Broncos have got the better of the team from Yorkshire, but as the season stands so far it felt unlikely this time round. As always the Leeds fans sang their team onto the pitch, one of my favourite sounds in rugby league I have to confess! I love the tradition!
Leeds kicked off and Ben Farrar let the ball go over his head form the kick it bounced in the in goal area, putting Leeds straight into a dangerous attacking position. Brad Singleton ran onto Danny McGuire’s neat kick to score the first try with less than 2 minutes on the clock, the extras were added by Zak Hardaker to put Leeds 6 points up. Ryan Hall showed his strength to score Rhinos second try, after a high tackle by Iliess Macani was waved on by the referee, a wingers’ try meant a very difficult kick for Hardaker, but it sailed over the posts to take the score to 12 nil. With 15 minutes on the clock McGuire put in another neat kick for Hall to go in for his second score, Zak Hardaker slotted over the easy conversion. Josh Drinkwater forced a goal line drop out after his kick off bounced in the in goal area to give Broncos some momentum. They got close to the Leeds line but failed to capitalise as the ball was knocked on. Iliess Macani showed his skill in keeping the ball in as Leeds went for a 40/20, having previously taken 2 high balls with great aplomb.
Mike McMeeken went over the line for Broncos on 20 minutes but Hardaker somehow managed to get his legs under the ball to prevent him touching down, great defensive play by the Leeds fullback. Atelia Vea missed the tackle count giving Leeds a handover from the tackle. Broncos made a good effort in attack and defence albeit with poor kicking for a spell. However a gap opened up in the Broncos defence and Mitch Achurch took full advantage in spite of a valiant tackle by Thomas Minns; Hardaker slotted the ball over the posts to add the extra 2. The first penalty of the game was awarded on 30 minutes to London Broncos; they attacked with intent but failed to make it over the line as the final kick flew over the head of Denny Solomona. Danny McGuire kicked another superb ball through for himself this time, he had to take the tackle as he had no back up, Rob Burrows his partner in wonderful play put a high kick up for Ryan Hall, who again plucked the ball out of the air and scored. The try wasn’t converted but Leeds scored straight from the kick off as McGuire again showed his brilliance; the ball passed through many hands ending with Ben Jones Bishop who scored a great try, Hardaker was successful with the kick to send the teams in at half time with the scores at Leeds 34 Broncos 0.
A disheartening first half for London Broncos, however Leeds on form are a team capable of beating anyone; Danny McGuire in particular had an immense half of rugby. I can only begin to imagine how hard it must be to pick yourself up and face the second half after going in at half time with 34 unanswered points against you. Iliess Macani made an uncharacteristic error early in the half in letting the ball bounce after a Leeds kick giving Leeds another set. Zak Hardaker added to his personal tally scoring both the try and conversion with again only 2 minutes showing on the clock from the second set. I can honestly say at this point that the Sky commentators totally get on my nerves! It seems to me that Eddie Hemmings takes great delight in the pain of London Broncos and their fans and was really willing for the London team to be heavily beaten with a zero on their scorecard! On 9 minutes Mason Caton-Brown spoilt the party on the nil as he ran through the Leeds defence after a good set of play by Broncos, Josh Drinkwater converted to add the 2. Leeds went on the attack as Rob Burrows made an immense break through the middle of the field backing himself before passing to Carl Ablett, Caton-Brown made a great effort to tackle Ablett to prevent a certain try. Denny Solomona made a silly error in dragging Ben Jones-Bishop over the whitewash to give Leeds a penalty when they were getting close to the end of their set. The additional set was capitalised on and Callum Watkins scored another Leeds try, Hardaker missed the conversion which felt like a small blessing.
Broncos again seemed to miss the tackle count as they attacked well, giving a handover, followed by a penalty to give Leeds more territory. London certainly weren’t prepared to lie down and be thrashed in the second half showing some very promising moves. They got a rare second set on 65 minutes after Ryan Hall knocked the ball on; Macani put in a neat kick to the corner putting Ben Jones-Bishop under pressure; forcing a goal line drop out. Leeds kept Broncos out and were next on the score board as they surged up the field, Ben Jones-Bishop scored his second try, Hardaker missed the kick. Broncos went over the line on 72 minutes but the ball had been knocked on, no try. I must confess to wishing the last 5 minutes away the improved second half display by Broncos as well as the heart they showed didn’t deserve a 50 point score against them. However Rob Burrow had other plans and scored a magical try to put his team on 52 points adding the extras the score finished on Leeds Rhinos 54 London Broncos 6. Not the nil that Eddie Hemmings actually stated at the end! It seems a crazy thing to say but there were positives to take from the game. Leeds travel to St Helens next Friday that should be a cracking game! Broncos face Castleford on Thursday at The Hive, another Yorkshire team in form; I’m hoping that it’s not going to be a painful evening.