REPORT: Rhinos hold onto SL status despite loss

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Leeds Rhinos 16 (10) v Toronto Wolfpack 17 (12)

Friday night saw another tight defeat in Leeds Rhinos’ disappointing 2018 campaign as they fell to a 17-16 defeat at home to Toronto Wolfpack – but they still secured their Super League status for 2019.

Toronto needed a big win over the reigning champions in order to overhaul Leeds’ superior points difference and, while unlikely, they had a good start as Nathaniel Peteru made an error at the play the ball in the game’s first set. The Rhinos, however, were able to keep the Canadians out – but they would break the deadlock. On 12 minutes, Gareth O’Brien broke the Leeds line after a weak tackle and was able to provide the underlapping Cory Paterson with a free run to the try line. The full back converted and the Wolfpack had a 6-0 lead.

Leeds hit back shortly after through a Tom Briscoe try after some off-the-cuff rugby saw Liam Sutcliffe place a clever grubber into the corner, Briscoe beating the retreating Toronto defence to place down next to the corner flag. Sutcliffe was unable to convert from the touchline but would score the try which handed Leeds the lead less than ten minutes later after O’Brien had extended the leader’s advantage with a penalty goal. Chasing through as Richie Myler chipped a kick towards the sticks. Leaping ahead of the full-back, Sutcliffe was able to control the ball to place down and he converted the easiest of goals to give the Rhinos the lead for the first time in the match.

That lead was there until two seconds before the half-time hooter. With the Leeds defence switching off when Toronto forward Adam Sidlow took the ball at first receiver, the visitors were able to move the ball to their right edge after various offloads and centre Nick Rawsthorne was able to slide over in the corner. Despite O’Brien failing to goal the tricky conversion, the Wolfpack led 12-10 at the break and they were good value for it.

Leeds came out for the second half knowing that the first try of the stanza would be vital and Jimmy Keinhorst, on his final appearance for the Rhinos, scored it after 55 minutes, Sutcliffe kicking the goal. Thereafter, the game became niggly and tense with Toronto dominating. After building pressure on the Leeds line, Toronto were able to level up the game. After Josh McCrone had weaved his way across the field, he worked his way back towards his left edge and, noticing a Leeds defender out of the line, he kicked into the space behind. Matty Russell, the former Warrington winger, was the beneficiary and slid in the corner. O’Brien missed the conversion and was visibly annoyed – he knew how big this game was to Toronto. It would, after all, put all the pressure on Hull KR to win in order to oust the Wolfpack from their third placed berth if the Canadians won. O’Brien knows more than most that the Million Pound Game is a tense one and was keen to avoid it.

The former Salford full-back would go on to become the matchwinner. After captain McCrone and Myler had traded missed field goal efforts, the 2015 Million Pound Game hero – O’Brien – stepped up to give the Wolfpack the narrowest of leads, his effort just edging over the bar.

That handed the Canadians the win and left them in third place with a points difference thirteen better than Hull KR, the only team who can still catch them. Sitting two points behind Toronto, the Robins will have to beat the already relegated Widnes VIkings by thirteen points or more in order to consign the Wolfpack to the Million Pound Game.

Leeds Rhinos team: Golding, T Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, L Briscoe, L. Sutcliffe, Myler, Peteru, Parcell, Crosby, Jones-Buchanan, Ferres, Thompson.

Interchange: Dwyer, C Smith, C Smith, Mullally, Cuthbertson.

Toronto Wolfpack: O’Brien, Caton-Brown, Rawsthorne, Wheeler, Russell, McCrone, Wallace, Lussick, Beswick, Sims, Paterson, Dixon, Emmitt

Interchange: Buchanan, Sidlow, Krasniqi, Ackers.

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