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The Leeds Rhinos and Toulouse Olympique XIII ventured into the unknown when they met in the opening round of the Super Eights Qualifiers at Headingley this afternoon.

Both sides were looking to follow the London Broncos and Salford Red Devils with a win but with the only previous meeting betwen the two sides being a cup semi-final over a decade ago there was very little to go on except current form in their respective divisions.

On paper the Rhinos were the big favourites but with their recent apalling form there was always a chance that Toulouse would use their Gallic flair and spring a massive surprise on their hosts in a rare Staurday afternoon encounter in front of the SKY TV cameras.

An awful mistake at a twenty metre restart from Toulouse’s Tony Maurel gifted the Rhinos the ball, and on three minutes Brad Dwyer burrowed under a group of tacklers to ground on the line, under the crossbar. Liam Sutcliffe added the conversion for a nerve settling 6-0 to the Rhinos.

Toulouse hit back almost immediately when Bastien Canet benefitted from a delightful Johnathon Ford dummy to go through a gap to ground from ten metres out. Mark Kheirallah slid his conversion attempt across the front ofthe sticks.

On twelve minutes the Rhinos were in for their second of the afternoon when Joel Moon took a Richie Myler miss-out pass to spin out of the tackle and drop over the line. Sutcliffe was off target with his conversion attempt, Leeds 10-4 ahead.

Joel Moon grabbed his second on twenty-one, finding his way over the line after dummying right and then left to feed through five attempted tackles to score. Sutcliffe was accurate with the kick for a 16-4 lead.

Tony Maurel lost the ball on the Toulouse twenty and the loose ball was picked up by Myler who found Ryan Hall to go down the wing and cross in the corner. Sutcliffe pulled his kick wide of the uprights but the Rhinos were now in control of the game.

On thirty-one Bastien Ader won the race to collect a Ford kick through after it rebounded off the post and he rolled over the line to ground by the left upright. Kheirallah added the conversion to reduce the arrears to ten points.

Ninety seconds before the interval and the Rhinos let Maxime Puech take a pass at first receiver, just a metre from the Leeds line, to go over. Kheirallah added the conversion for 20-16 at half time, the Rhinos now knew that they were in a battle.

Toulouse bombed a chance to take the lead on forty-four when Stan Robin lost the ball while taking the pass with the Leeds line begging. As Leeds brought the ball out of defence Ryan Hall twisted his knee in the tackle and was helped from the field.

On fifty-three Paul Marcon knocked on ten metres from his own line under pressure from Myler. On the fifth tackle Dwyer dummied left before going through the gap he’d created to dive over the line and buy the Rhinos a little breathing space. Sutcliffe added the conversion for a 26-16 lead.

On sixty-three Myler took a Dwyer pass a couple of metres short of the Toulouse line and had the strength to get over for Leeds sixth try of the afternoon. Sutcliffe added the conversion for a 32-16 lead, the two points looking secure.

The win was secured on sixty-six when Adam Cuthbertson dropped to the line as the Olympique defence tired. Sutcliffe added the conversion and the Rhinos were 38-16 ahead with twelve minutes remaining.

Carl Ablett added to the Rhinos score on seventy when the makeshift half-back found a gap to cross from close. Sutcliffe kicked the conversion from the touchline for 44-16.

Chris Centrone scored a consolation try on seventy-six after weaving his way through a broken Leeds defence and fending off a last ditch Jimmy Keinhorst tackle. Khierallah added the extras for 44-22.

Ash Golding completed the scoring with a minute left on the clock when he took a Brett Ferres pass to go ten metres to score without a Toulouse hand on him. Sutcliffe couldn’t add the extra two but the Rhinos had a 48-22 win to start their campaign.

The size of the winning margin belies a game where the visitors were in touch up until the half time interval. The fitness of the Super League side, along with some generous decisions from the referee, told in the end. Leeds will know that this kind of performance will not be good enough against the likes of Salford, Hull KR and Toronto and Director or Rugby, Kevin Sinfield, will know that his side have still got a lot of work to do before their Super League survival is guaranteed.

Rhinos:  Sutcliffe (6G), Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon (2T), Hall (T), Ablett (T), Myler (T), Crosby, Dwyer (2T), Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ferres, Cuthbertson (T).  Subs:  Mullally, Oledzki, Golding (T), Peteru.

Olympique: Kheirallah (3G), Marcon, Centrone (T), Ader (T), Maurel, Ford, Barthau, Bretherton, Marion, Rapira, Canet (T), Mika, Boyer.  Subs: Robin, Puech (T), Hepi, Pettybourne.

Referee: Gareth Hewer.

Half-Time: 20-16.

Full-Time: 48-22.

Attendance: .



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