Super League leaders Leeds showed real signs of cracking up as London Broncos went close to ending their unbeaten record at Headingley on Friday. The Rhinos frittered away a 20-6 half-time lead and needed a late try from Willie Poching to spare their blushes with a 27-22 victory that keeps them in front of the chasing pack.
It was too close for comfort, and coach Daryl Powell admits the leaders will need to produce more sustained efforts in a demanding month in August if they are to maintain their title push.
They meet Hull, Bradford and Wigan - their three nearest rivals - in the next month, and could even find themselves in second place before their next match if the Bulls manage to win at Castleford today and London in three days' time.
"We got two points without playing to our full potential, but next week we will have to play to our full potential for longer periods against a pretty committed Hull team who are difficult to beat on their own ground," said Powell.
"It's not going to get any easier. We are aware of that. It's down to us to sort out the little bits in our game. We need to be more consistent throughout the game."
Leeds played their best rugby of the season when early tries from Wayne McDonald and Chev Walker gave them a 14-0 lead at a point a minute, and they would have been out of sight had the impressive Matt Adamson not had two tries disallowed by video referee Gerry Kershaw.
But free-scoring full-back Dennis Moran sparked a comeback with a fine solo try before half-time and added another in the second half to take his tally for the last two months to 16.
"They nibbled away at us and near the end it was a bit tense, which it shouldn't have been," added Powell. "We should have been much more professional. We need to realise we can't play for 20 minutes and win games."
Leeds would have secured victory long before the end had Mark Calderwood not fluffed a try-scoring chance, crossing the chalk only to put a foot over the dead-ball line.
"It's a stark lesson for Mark," admitted Powell. "He has scored a fantastic number of tries for us and does some quality things, but he'll be disappointed with that. You only need to get over the line and put it down. I know he was trying to improve the position, but he should just have touched it down."
Meanwhile, London's coach, Tony Rea, claimed a moral victory after his tired troops rallied in their third match in eight days. He was delighted with the performance of Moran, who defied a knee injury to maintain his remarkable try-scoring exploits, and the debut of young forward Joe Mbu, who had been recalled from a loan spell with Leeds' Under-21 team.
With Damien Kennedy, on loan from the Rhinos, and Andrew King also grabbing tries, the outcome hinged on the 100 per cent goal-kicking of the Leeds captain, Kevin Sinfield, who booted four conversions, a penalty and a drop goal.
Rea praised his side's "amazing character", but the Broncos face an even more demanding schedule, with back-to-back matches against Bradford and St Helens.Reuse content