Rugby League: Strength in depth pays off for Leeds

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Leeds Rhinos 36 Sheffield Eagles 22

BRAVELY THOUGH a depleted Sheffield side and particularly their second rower, Paul Carr, battled, they lacked the strength in depth to knock Leeds out of their stride and improve their own top-five prospects.

Carr's running gave Sheffield the advantage during the first half, but once Leeds started bringing their reinforcements into play they were always destined to move level with Wigan at the top of Super League.

Carr struck for the first time, after Iestyn Harris had given Leeds the lead with a penalty, charging on to Mark Aston's superb pass to score. He did even better when surging through for his second, again converted by Aston, giving the Eagles a 12-2 lead.

As expected, Sheffield defended fiercely, but the best example of that did them no good, however. Bright Sodje somehow turned Harris onto his back over the try line, only for Leeds to move the ball smartly from the scrum allowing Brad Godden to send in Marcus St Hilaire for a try, to which Harris added two extra points. With penalties piling up against them and a lack of forward firepower on the bench, the pressure built on Sheffield, but they kept their lead until the break.

The contrast with Leeds' strength in reserve was stark, as Sheffield struggled to contain Adrian Morley, brought on from the bench. Four minutes into the second half, he ran on to a pass from the former Sheffield scrum- half, Ryan Sheridan, and reached over in the tackle to touch down one- handed, Harris' goal putting Leeds back in front.

Four minutes later, Godden, in a rich vein of form at the moment, slipped through again to supply St Hilaire with his second, and Leeds had reason to believe that Sheffield's challenge was effectively over.

That seemed to be confirmed by a Leeds attack starting with a 70-yard run by Paul Sterling and ending with another ex-Eagle, Andy Hay, diving over.

Keith Senior and Sodje got well-worked tries, but it was too late for Sheffield, and Sterling kept Leeds comfortably ahead with a well-deserved score before Daryll Powell rounded it off.

With Harris finishing with six goals, Leeds' only worry was that Tony Kemp was placed on report for a tackle that saw Darren Turner taken off.

LEEDS: Harris, Sterling, Cummins, Godden, St Hilaire, Powell, Sheridan, Masella, Newton, McDermott, Hay, Farrell, Glanville. Substitutes used: Morley, Holroyd, Kemp, Mathiou.

SHEFFIELD: Stott, Pinkney, Taewa, Senior, Sodje, Watson, Aston, Laughton, Lawless, Shaw, Carr, Turner, Doyle. Substitutes used: Vassilakopoulos, Stephens, Morganson, Wood.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).