Leeds Rhinos were scheduled too play the Castleford Tigers in a Thursday night clash but coronavirus issues forced a late change with Hull FC stepping into the breach on what was supposedly their bye round to travel to Headingley for what was scheduled to be their home game in round eighteen. All credit to the Airlie Birds for stepping in at short notice and to the Rhinos for facing a different opposition to the one that they had been planning for.
A win for the Rhinos would lift them back into the top four, jumping back in front of the Catalans Dragons but Hull FC knew that a win would not help them in their league position. The Rhinos were massive favourites for the win, Hull FC robbed of players due to their own coronavirus problems and their late notice of the game. The bookies and pundits couldn’t see below a Leeds win, FC being given a twenty-point start on the coupon.
Hull FC scored the first points of the game when Mahe Fonua took a short ball to go between two Leeds tacklers and slide over the line following a Jack Walker mistake fielding a kick. Marc Sneyd missed the conversion, the Airlie Birds four ahead.
In fifteen Richie Myler tackles from an offside position as the Rhinos scrambled in defence. It was too much for Ben Thaler and the Rhinos half-back was shown the yellow card. Two tackles later FC got their second as Andre Savelio took a bullet pass from Ben McNamara to go in. Sneyd added the conversion for a 10-0 lead, the Rhinos a clear second best.
FC should have got their third on twenty-one but Bureta Faraimo knocked on Sneyd’s grubber as he went to ground.
The Rhinos struck back on twenty-five with Walker picking up a spilled Luke Gale kick to the corner and walking in from five metres. Rhys Martin added the conversion to reduce the arrears to just four points.
The Rhinos were level three minutes later with Ash Handley completing a passing move by taking a miss-out pass from Walker and stepping inside to hit the ground. Martin pushed his conversion across the front of the posts, the scores at 10-10 on the half hour.
Leeds hit the front two minutes before the interval as Walker grabbed his second of the game, spinning out of the tackle after Matt Prior had gone close and offloaded to his supporting full back. Martin added the extras for a 16-10 Leeds lead at the break.
It took Leeds four minutes of the second half to increase their lead as Luke Donaldson hit the ball at speed and grounded under a pile of four FC tacklers. Scoring under the sticks it made the Martin conversion.
Leeds were in again two minutes later as Handley got his second benefitting from a Brad Dwyer break and taking and inside ball to step off both feet to score under the sticks from twenty metres out. Martin added the conversion for 28-10, the Rhinos now rampant.
Hull FC were revitalised by a superb Jake Connor 40-20 on fifty-seven and on the second tackle Josh Griffin crashed over the Leeds line for a four pointer. Sneyd added the conversion, Hull had their first points for forty minutes.
Sneyd kicked a 40-20 on sixty-one minutes and on the fourth tackle Jack Brown pushed his way over the line and managed to get the ball onto the ground, getting the nod from the video referee. Sneyd added the conversion and from nowhere the Airlie Birds were back within six of the Rhinos.
A last-tackle cross-field kick from Luke Gale was collected by Liam Sutcliffe, the Rhinos centre dropping to the ground for a four pointer. Martin added the conversion and the Rhinos were twelve ahead with thirteen left on the clock.
Gale skewed an attempted drop goal wide of the uprights on seventy-three but a minute later Handley completed his hat-trick when he intercepted ten metres his own side of the half way line to sprint down the wing and evade the last ditch tackle of Sneyd to improve the angle. Martin added the conversion for 40-22.
The Rhinos did enough to take the points and climb back into the top four, at least until the Catalans Dragons play on Friday night. Hull FC had their moments but once the Rhinos managed to get some momentum it was a mountain to climb for the Black and Whites. The top four now looks like an impossibility for Hull but is still a real prospect for Leeds, although they can be forgiven for having one eye on next weekends Challenge Cup trip to Wembley.
Hull FC: Connor, Scott, Fonua (T), Tuimavave, Faraimo, McNamara, Sneyd (3G), Sao, Johnstone, Bowden, Griffin (T), Savelio (T), Fash. Subs: Satae, Wynne, Bienek, Brown (T).
Leeds Rhinos: Walker (2T), Handley (3T), Sutcliffe L (T), Hurrell, Briscoe T, Gale, Myler (SB on 15), Seumanufagai, Leeming, Oledzki, Thompson, Martin (6G), Prior. Subs: Holroyd, Dwyer, Smith, Donaldson (T).
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Half Time: 10-16.
Full Time: 22-40.
Venue: Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds.