Image Credit: [Stephen Gaunt/ Touchlinepics]
A disappointing end to the season as Leeds Rhinos lose 16-17 to Toronto Wolfpack.
On a dreary Friday evening, Leeds Rhinos brought the curtain down on a disappointing season with a one-point defeat to Canadian outfit Toronto Wolfpack. Gareth O’Brien’s 76th minute drop goal condemned the Rhinos to their 15th defeat of the season, their second in the Qualifiers stage, to move the Wolfpack level on points with Leeds in the race for a 2019 Super League place.
O’Brien was heavily involved in opening the scoring, scything through Leeds’ defence on the right before passing back inside to Cory Paterson, who dotted down in the thirteenth minute, with O’Brien then successfully converting. Leeds were sloppy throughout, but soon replied on nineteen minutes, with winger Tom Briscoe latching onto a Liam Sutcliffe grubber that followed from numerous offloads near Toronto’s line. Sutcliffe redeemed his missed conversion by scoring the Rhinos’ second try, pinching the ball from Paterson’s hands to touch down under the posts following a high kick from Richie Myler. His simple conversion gave the Rhinos a 10-6 lead. However, Toronto finished the half stronger, and a lengthy sequence of passes eventually found Nick Rawsthorne, who scored in the corner right on the half-time siren.
Toronto could not protect their 12-10 half-time lead, with Leeds centre Jimmy Keinhorst showing great strength to score after being set up by Brad Dwyer. Trailing 16-12, Toronto weren’t finished yet, equalising through Matty Russell, who was first to a smart Bob Beswick grubber and scored in the left-side corner. O’Brien’s missed conversion left the scores level at 16 apiece, with a tense ending to the game seeing Leeds prop Dom Crosby sent to the sin-bin and both sides missing field-goal attempts.
However, with five minutes left, O’Brien stepped up again, notching a drop-goal from 45 metres out, dumping the Rhinos to a final defeat of a frankly harrowing season, and helping the Wolfpack edge ever-closer to a place in next season’s top flight.
This defeat ended not only Leeds’ season, but also Kevin Sinfield’s spell in charge as head coach. Incoming ex-player, Australian David Furner, clearly has his work cut out to turn the Rhinos back into Super League contenders. Sinfield’s short-term replacement of Brian McDermott has not had the desired effect, with Leeds continuing their poor form under their former captain that has seen them offer a feeble defence of their Super League crown. With a team of promising youth and ageing forwards, and Wests Tigers back Tuimoala Lolohea the only incoming player at present, Furner will have his work cut out trying to take Leeds back to the top.
By Jonathan Burnett