Leeds Rhinos 25 Toulouse Olympique 14 – Brad Dwyer brace helps set up crucial win for injured Rhinos
In front of a crowd of 11,167 at Headingley, the Rhinos scored four tries – including two from lively hooker Brad Dwyer – against the visitors’ three, but were ahead for most of the match.
The Rhinos totally dominated the first half, but only led 12-6 at the break.
Toulouse have entered the hosts’ 20 goals twice, scoring the first time and being held off on the other occasion.
The rest of the period was spent close to their line, but despite all their pressure – and sometimes inventive rugby – the Rhinos managed just two tries.
They extended their lead to three points in the third quarter and although Toulouse pulled back a few tries late, Leeds never seemed to lose that game.
The French side defended well, but Leeds were without all their pivots and the lack of an experienced general was evident in the way they attacked.
It was Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s first win as caretaker manager, on the fifth attempt – with a draw too – and certainly in terms of spirit and determination the Rhinos are in a better position. only when he took over.
Watching the game from his home in Brisbane, new manager Rohan Smith will certainly feel he has a base to fall back on, although a growing shortage of troops will be a concern.
Leeds had fielded a battered side in the loss at Castleford Tigers four days earlier, but with four players ruled out of that game – Zane Tetevano and James Bentley suspended, plus injured Blake Austin (head) and Alex Mellor (chest) – they were really stripped down to the bare essentials and picked up two more injuries early in the game.
The Rhinos started with center, Liam Sutcliffe at fullback, hooker Kruise Leeming playing range and Jack Sinfield, 17, in just his second senior game, at scrum half, but had to reshuffle early in the third quarter -weather. when Sutcliffe left, Jack Broadbent stepped in as the last line of defense and Rhyse Martin moved from the peloton to three quarters.
Tom Briscoe, who had scored Leeds’ third try minutes earlier, suffered a nasty injury on the hour mark, so Max Simpson, the Rhinos’ other 17-year-old, moved to right wing, with 18-year-old Morgan Gannon as its center.
Toulouse also had players missing, including Chris Hankinson who picked up an injury in the warm-up, but the Rhinos squad sheet will have given them plenty of encouragement, but they weren’t very good, although they did led for a while in the first half.
That said, they can score points and Leeds still have a lot of work to do in the relegation battle. The Rhinos went desperately close three times in the opening 12 minutes, Ash Handley put a foot into touch just before the line, Martin nearly recovered from a chip from Leeming – who did a good job out of position – then Sutcliffe was retained. through the whitewash. Toulouse didn’t get out of their half, and barely out their 20, until 15 minutes, but then – as teams tend to do against Leeds – they scored with their first attack.
Tony Gigot clinched a 40-20, then on the final cross kick to Paul Macon who caught without real pressure to score a smooth try totally against the run of play, which Gigot improved.
That pretty much sums up Leeds this season, but the response has been strong. Toulouse defended confidently, until just before the half-hour mark James Donaldson kicked into high gear on a short pass from Dwyer and Martin’s conversion leveled the scores.
Briscoe appeared to have pushed Leeds forward when he landed on Leeming’s kick, but was ruled offside. However, Toulouse failed to complete the set after the penalty, were penalized for dissent and conceded in the resulting attack, two minutes before the break.
Sinfield reacted quickly to dive on the ball after his spot kick bounced off a defender, erasing the tackle count, then Dwyer launched an acting half dummy and dove through a huge gap. Martin again added the extras.
Toulouse had some position on the pitch at the start of the first half, but Leeds handled the pressure without a real scare and added their third try 11 minutes later, scoring on a final tackle.
Leeming was the creator with a long pass and Briscoe dived to the corner. Credit also goes to the impressive Gannon whose mid-term tackle, as Toulouse tried to save the ball from Gigot’s imposing bomb, mounted the attack.
Martin’s conversion attempt was off target but he took it both with a 57th-minute angled penalty after Toulouse were caught offside on a kick, opening a 12-point gap. Leeming, the Rhinos captain, made the – smart – decision to take both, then netted a drop goal soon after.
Rhinos lost Briscoe who was injured – with no one near him – as he went to catch up on the restart.
The ball fell to the ground and Toulouse withdrew an unconverted try after their scrum, by Matty Russell. The Rhinos, however, made it safe 12 minutes from when Dwyer capped off a solid game by rushing from the interim half for his second down, which Martin improved before Junior Vaivai scored a late consolation.
Junior Vaivai scored a late consolation six minutes from time.
The penalty tally ended 8-7 in favor of the Rhinos (4-2 in the first half).