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The vagaries of the fixture computer threw together Leeds Rhinos and the Salford Red Devils with Paul Rowley’s side having to face their two key play makers of 2023 in the colours of their opponents, with Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers making their Rhinos debuts.

It was a new look Rhinos side with several arrivals, and departures, over the close season and Salford had to look to build again in 2024 after losing a few of their key players over the winter.

The visitors were given a big ten-point start on the handicap coupon with the bookies and pundits alike giving them little chance of a first round win, but that’s exactly the odds that the Red Devils like and Rohan Smith will have warned his charges about complacency as his Leeds side look to live up to pre-season expectations.

Leeds had the benefit of some early penalties but a mistake from Harry Newman, taking out his own teammate Luis Roberts as he jumped to take a high kick gifted the ball to Salford on the Leeds twenty.  On the fourth tackle Cameron Smith was penalised for holding down in the tackle and Marc Sneyd took the opportunity to put his side into the lead.

On thirteen minutes a stray arm from Ryan Brierley on Brodie Croft saw the Salford full-back sin-binned for a low force head contact. Rhyse Martin kicked the resulting penalty to level the scores.

Handley dropped a high kick, under no pressure, on seventeen and on the third tackle a Sneyd grubber was taken and grounded by Cade Cust on his Salford debut. The try was under the sticks giving Sneyd a simple conversion to put the twelve me into an 8-2 lead.

From the Leeds kick off it was Salford’s turn to make the mistake, Nene MacDonald spilling to ball as he tried to take the catch, but the Salford defence held firm and forced the Leeds error.

A sensational Leeds score on twenty-three from birthday boy Ash Handley as the Rhinos winger weaved his way through the Salford defence after taking the pass ten metres from his own line and sprinting downfield. Martin added the conversion from wide to level the scores again as Brierley returned from the sinbin.

On thirty-three Oliver Partington scooted from acting half back as the Leeds line slid to the right and left a big gap for the Salford loose forward to go in. Sneyd added the conversion to re-establish the six-point lead for the visitors.

Dion Cross should have scored off a Sneyd kick to the corner with ninety seconds of the half remaining, but the Salford winger knocked on rather than ground the bouncing ball, but the visitors took a 14-8 lead into the sheds.

Salford did brilliantly to keep Leeds out at the start of the second half with Chris Atkins green-carded and Leeds having back-to-back sets in the Red Devils twenty. But on forty-eight Handley got his second of the night as he collected a Rhyse Martin kick to ground in the corner. Martin was on target from the touchline to again level the scores at 14-14.

On fifty-seven Leeds lost Paul Momirovski for a shoulder charge on Atkins, the Rhinos centre sent to the sinbin for ten minutes. Sneyd kicked the resulting penalty and again the Red Devils were in the lead.

Amir Bourouh was sinbinned on sixty-five for slowing the play-the-ball on his own line. The sides back level on twelve men each as Martin kicked the goal to level the scores for the fourth time on the evening.

With eleven minutes remaining the Rhinos hit the front for the first time in the game as Sam Lisone barged his way through a tiring Salford defence to drop over the line and score under the sticks with three Salford defenders attached. Martin added the conversion, Leeds with a six-point advantage.

Leeds survived a scare on seventy-six, Salford knocking on in the act of scoring, the Rhinos holding on until the final hooter to take in a win in a game that they had only led for just over ten minutes.

There was plenty to admire in both sides play in the opening game of their seasons. Leeds blooded six new players and it was clear that they are still getting to know one another but there is plenty of underlying quality. Salford weren’t going to lie down but will be counting the costs of a couple of sin-binnings and an awful penalty count. It was a blood and thunder encounter but showed signs of early season rustiness. Rohan Smith will gladly take the points but will acknowledge that there is plenty of work to do.

Leeds Rhinos: Miller, Roberts, Newman, Momirovski (SB on 57), Handley (2T), Croft, Frawley, Oledzki, Ackers, Donaldson, Goudemand, Martin (4G), Smith.  Subs: Sangare, Lisone (T), Bentley, O’Connor. 18th Man: Edgell.

Salford Red Devils: Brierley (SB on 13), Hankinson, MacDonald, Lafai, Cross, Cust (T), Sneyd (4G), Ormondroyd, Bourouh (SB on 65), Singleton, Watkins, Stone, Partington (T). Subs: Atkins, Shorrocks, Wright, Hellewell. 18th Man: Connell.  

Half-Time: 8-14.

Full-Time: 20-14.

Score Progression: 0-2, (SB), 2-2, 2-6, 2-8, 6-8, 8-8, 8-12, 8-14 : HT: 12-14, 14-14, (SB), 14-16, (SB), 16-16, 20-16, 22-16 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Salford – Square – Salford – Square – Salford – Square – Salford – Square – Leeds.

Referee: Aaron Moore.

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Fri 16th Feb 2024 9:59 PM | Views : 3481 | Replies : 0 | BACK TO STORIES