Sinfield's masterclass keeps Leeds climbing the ladder

Leeds 21 Hull 6

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The Independent Online

Leeds will go into next Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final with Wigan in good heart after continuing their climb up the Super League table with a fourth consecutive win at a rain-soaked Headingley last night.

The reigning champions, who were outside the top eight a month ago, are now up to fifth, the position from which they went on to win the Grand Final, and gaining confidence by the week under the inspired leadership of Kevin Sinfield.

Sinfield's tactical awareness and kicking proved to be the big difference but both teams deserve praise for coping with dreadful conditions after almost two inches of rain fell on the pitch.

Hull battled to the end despite an injury crisis that forced coach Peter Gentle to give a debut to Ryan McGoldrick, signed earlier in the day from Castleford, and to ask assistant coach Lee Radford to once more come out of retirement. Leeds played with enterprise but it was appropriate that the opening score came from an error. Ryan Bailey charged down Brett Seymour's kick and set up the position for centre Carl Ablett to score the game's first try.

Second rower Brett Delaney then made the most of the difficult conditions to extend his side's lead, taking Sinfield's pass before sliding over the line.

The score came after a contentious decision by referee Tim Roby to penalise winger Ben Crooks for passing off the ground, but Hull got a decision in their favour when video referee Ian Smith disallowed a try by Sinfield after spotting a knock-on.

Lunt was twice held up over the line as Leeds piled on the pressure but Hull's defence held firm to restrict their opponents to a penalty from Sinfield.

Leeds extended their lead three minutes into the second half when Ablett, fresh from his England appearance on Wednesday night, got his winger Ryan Hall over for their third try and Sinfield's fourth goal made it 20-0.

Hull threatened a fightback when stand-off Richard Horne touched down his own kick and Joe Westerman added the conversion. The score gave the visitors renewed confidence but they had given themselves too much to do and the conditions worked against them as they attempted to chase the game.

The only score in the last 27 minutes was a drop goal from Sinfield, who had done more than anybody to keep the champions on course for a possible double.

Leeds Hardaker; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Peacock, Lunt, Griffin, Ward, Delaney, Bailey. Substitutes used Moore, Clarkson, Kirke, Burrow.

Hull McGoldrick; Crooks, Turner, Yeaman, T Briscoe; Horne, Seymour; Lynch, Heremaia, Watts, Westerman, Whiting, Pitts. Substitutes used Aspinwall, Manu, Nicklas, Radford.

Referee T Roby (RFL).