Saxton and Raynor tries give Leeds late fright

Hull FC 12 Leeds Rhinos 16
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The Independent Online

Leeds launched the defence of their Super League title last night with a hard-fought victory at the KC Stadium, although they were taken all the way by a Hull team which lacked a string of regulars but nothing in determination.

Late tries from Tom Saxton and Gareth Raynor brought Hull to the brink of a successful fightback after a combination of Leeds' strong defence and more clinical finishing seemed to have finished matters.

The visitors took the lead after 19 minutes in controversial circumstances when they got the ball back from Danny McGuire's little kick and Marcus Bai scored in the corner from what was a clear forward pass by Richard Mathers.

Paul Cooke missed an easy penalty for Hull before a couple awarded in the opposite direction gave Leeds the chance to build some pressure. They took advantage of some slack defence when their stand-in hooker, Andrew Dunemann, darted out on dummy-half to send Chev Walker over, with Kevin Sinfield again converting to put the Rhinos in a comfortable position on the half-hour.

Hull finally got their first point when Cooke landed the goal after Willie Poching had held down Motu Toni, but it was not much to show for a half which they had started so strongly.

Hull then enjoyed plenty of possession at the start of the second half, but lacked the guile to break down a well-organised Leeds defence. Again the Rhinos demonstrated the cutting edge their hosts lacked, putting together a lovely handling move involving Sinfield, McGuire and Chris McKenna before Poching produced the final pass to send Keith Senior over the Hull line.

Saxton had his moments just after the hour when Cooke's kick slithered through the Leeds in-goal area and he was able to swoop on it and touch down, with Cooke's conversion giving Hull further encouragement for the final quarter. With little more than five minutes to play, some fine handling ended with Kirk Yeaman's overhead pass sending Raynor in at the corner.

If Saxton had not fumbled at the play the ball two minutes later, Hull's momentum might have taken them over again and a brave fightback might have have gained its reward.

Hull: Saxton, Blacklock, Tony, Yeaman, Raynor, R Horne, Lupton, Dowes, Swain, McNicholas, McMenemy, Chester, Cooke. Substitutes used: Thackray, Higgins, G Horne, Hill.

Leeds: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, Sinfield, McGuire, Bailey, Dunemann, Ward, McKenna, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis. Substitutes used: Burrow, McDermott, Lauitiiti, Poching.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).