Pitts digs Leeds out ofhole after injury crisis

Leeds 30 Crusaders 20
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The Independent Online

Leeds limped into the fifth round of the Challenge Cup yesterday, but at a heavy cost. The Rhinos lost three men to injury during the game but still held off a Crusaders side who were themselves shorthanded following the 58th minute sending-off of Hep Cahill.

When Peter Lupton, who began his long career at Leeds, reduced their lead to four points with little more than 10 minutes to play, a shock was a distinct possibility. But Jarrod Sammut knocked on from the kick-off and Danny Buderus spotted his chance from dummy-half to finally settle a difficult tie. "There was a time when we didn't know who to play where," said the Leeds coach, Brian McDermott.

Everything that could go wrong for Leeds in the first quarter, did go wrong. First, they lost their full-back, Brent Webb, after a collision with two defenders on their first attack. Then some lethargic defensive work allowed the Crusaders to take the lead. Michael Witt was given far too much space to launch a kick, Stuart Reardon got above Ryan Hall and Cahill was there to touch down.

The visitors could have had a second when Vince Mellars was held up over the try-line. As it was, it was not long before he was involved in releasing Elliot Kear, whose kick gave Rhys Hanbury an easy try, with Danny McGuire pulling up in pain with a leg muscle injury in only his third match back as he tried to give chase.

Leeds were digging themselves a hole, until the appropriately-named Jay Pitts began to extricate them. Witt's ankle-grab stopped him scoring from one powerful run, but Paul McShane dummied his way over from the next tackle.

Then Pitts took a short ball from Rob Burrow for only his second try for the Rhinos and the crisis seemed to be over after Hall's try-saving cover tackle on Clinton Schifcofske when Burrow raced away for one of his own.

Hall put Leeds further ahead at the start of the second half, but the home side had another shaky period when Chris Clarkson was taken off on a stretcher with an ankle injury and Kear scored in the corner from Frank Winterstein's cut-out pass.

The Welsh side did not help their prospects of a late charge when Cahill was dismissed for a blatant trip on Burrow. "I thought it was harsh," said the Crusaders coach and former Leeds hero, Iestyn Harris. "A few calls went against us, but if we show the same sort of commitment in the second half of the season we'll be fine."

Leeds Webb; Smith, Delaney, Senior, Hall; Sinfield, Burrow; Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Pitts, Clarkson, Ablett. Substitutes used: McGuire, Burgess, Kirke, McShane.

Crusaders Schifcofske; Reardon, Mellars, Thomas, Kear; Witt, Hansbury; O'Hara, White, Moore, Cahill, Winterstein, Lupton. Substitutes used: Bryant, Flower, Dudson, Sammut.

Referee S Ganson (St Helens)

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