Leeds Rhinos 42-14 Salford City Reds
Salford City Reds went into their game against Leeds Rhinos having conceded 40 points or more in both of their opening Super League fixtures in 2013. Despite injuries to key Rhinos players Jamie Peacock, Ryan Bailey and Brett Delaney, the tie at Headingley Carnegie was to prove no different as the Rhinos made it a hat-trick of drubbings for Salford, finishing comfortable 42-14 winners.
Prior to this game, Leeds had only lost to Salford once in their past 31 Super League encounters and this dominant record never looked under any threat. Early Leeds pressure saw Salford fumble a pass from their own scrum, the loose ball pounced upon by Stevie Ward. Salford were directionless in their response and failed to capitalise on the multiple penalties afforded to them by referee Robert Hicks. With 20 minutes gone, the Rhinos made Salford pay for their wastefulness, Kevin Sinfield putting a grubber through for Joel Moon to touch down against his old club.
A whitewash looked on the cards when Zak Hardaker, returning from concussion last weekend, fired a short pass into the hands of Kallum Watkins who crashed over the line to make the score 18-0. However Salford did manage a score of their own before the break. When a ball went to ground within the Reds’ half, this gave them the opportunity to escape on the outside. Once the breakaway was eventually halted, Salford had men free on the opposite flank, picked out by a clever cross kick. Niall Evalds caught the ball but lost his feet, forcing him to pop the ball off the ground for Ashley Gibson to finish the job, making the score 18-6 at half-time.
Suspicions that Danny McGuire was out of sorts were confirmed after the break when he passed the ball into the hands of Salford winger Niall Evalds, who ran 95 metres to score. The Rhinos hit back with great urgency, albeit rather fortuitously. The persistent threat that was Rob Burrow found Watkins, via the chest of Jones-Buchanan, who put Joel Moon over for his second to a chorus of boos from the visitors end. A brace of close range efforts from Paul McShane stretched the score to 36-10. Salford’s Ashley Gibson did manage to respond, with his second try, but the Reds never threatened to comeback.
Captain Kevin Sinfield was consistency personified all evening, and when he created, scored and converted his own try, from an interception in the final minute, he completed yet another faultless kicking performance, a record that stretches back to round 27 of the Super League last year. A good result for Leeds ahead of their World Club Challenge game against Melbourne Storm next week, with the only negative being the thumb injury picked up by Zak Hardaker which forced him off at half-time. However these are not such promising times for Salford, who will be left wondering how they are going to plug their leaky defence after conceding a massive 124 points in only 3 games.