First blood to Leeds in season-defining week

Leeds 20 Hull 0
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The Independent Online

It was hardly a thing of beauty, but Leeds' first win in four games will be a confidence boost that is only partly reflected in going up two places in the Super League table.

"I haven't seen as focused a performance for a long time," said the Leeds coach Brian McDermott.

The first of two meetings between the clubs in nine days was a dour affair in the Headingley drizzle, but it saw the Rhinos put in a solid defensive effort, which has not always been the case this season.

It was the first time they had nilled their opponents for almost two years. With nothing separating them in the Super League table and a Challenge Cup quarter-final bringing them together again next weekend, this loomed as the start of a season-defining week for these two sides.

Leeds started with plenty of inviting possession in their opponents' territory and the only surprise was that it took them 14 minutes to take advantage, through Kevin Sinfield's long, looping pass to Ryan Hall.

Neither side made many concessions to the difficult conditions and that meant a plethora of handling errors, with Hull marginally the worse offenders. The visitors had their best chance just before half-time, when Sinfield's kick out on the full, Ben Jones-Bishop's fumble and a penalty at the play-the-ball all accumulated to give them a juicy attacking position. Again hands let them down when Sam Obst knocked on.

The Rhinos continued to dominate territorially after the break, without producing a clear-cut chance. At least their defence looked well capable of absorbing what Hull had to offer – which was not a great deal. But this wasn't the sort of display that had given them five wins out of the last six.

The match was so congested Leeds happily collected a second Sinfield goal, when Epalahame Lauaki went high on Weller Hauraki 12 minutes from time. Three minutes later, the points were safe when Jones-Bishop timed his run to touch down Sinfield's kick, followed by Danny McGuire's try in the final seconds.

As an exercise in selling tickets for next week's Cup-tie, it could have been a lot better, but for Leeds the result was the thing.

Leeds: Jones-Bishop; Hardaker, Delaney, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Bailey, Buderus, Peacock, Hauraki, Jones-Buchanan, Clarkson. Substitutes used Kirke, Lauitiiti, Pitts, Burrow.

Hull: Phelps; Whiting, Turner, Yeaman, Briscoe; Horne, Obst; O'Meley, Houghton, Fitzgibbon, Manu, Tickle, Westerman. Substitutes used Washbrook, Lauaki, Moa, Radford.

Referee R Silverwood (Mirfield).