Neither Leeds Rhinos nor Hull FC will have greeted the announcement of the opening round of Super League with much delight. The Rhinos have a great home record against Hull but know that Lee Radfords’ side are much fancied for an excellent 2020 season with a fericious looking pack after their closed season recruitment.
It was the second game of the Emerald Headingley double-header, and the home side were the favourites with the bookies, despite the terraces being bolstered with plenty of Castleford supporters who were lending their voice to the visitors.
Expectations were high for both sides with the Rhinos looking for a much better season than their last couple, while Hull FC were seeking the consistency that they lacked throughout the 2019 season.
It was clear from the early minutes that there was little love lost between these two sides. When Ash Handley went close after three minutes tempers boiled over but referee Thaler kept his cards in his pocket.
FC broke the deadlock through the boot of Marc Sneyd after fourteen minutes after the Rhinos had gifted a penalty just ten metres from their own sticks.
A sensational FC try, a passing move over ninety metres, was finished by Carlos Tuimavave as the centre went over in the right hand corner for the first four pointer of the game. Sneyd was unabe to add the conversion, the visitors 6-0 ahead.
A great run from Jake Connor through a scrampbling Leeds defence found Ratu Naulago in support to cross unopposed to score in the right corner. Sneyd hit the near upright with his conversion attempt, FC with a 10-0 lead.
On thirty-three Josh Bowden took a superb offload from Andre Savelio to score under the sticks, the Rhinos weakness in defence being exploited by a rampant and confident Hull. This time Sneyd added the extras and the Rhinos were looking in all kinds of trouble.
Brad Dwyer lost the ball on the line in the act of scoring on thirty-six as the Rhinos went into the sheds pointless after struggling to get any momentum in the first half against a Hull side who were quickly firing on all cylinders.
The Rhinos changed into their regular home kit at the interval in the hope that it might change their luck, and to avoid an awful colour clash that had led to some confusion in the first half.
Two minutes after the restart Luke Gale stretched for the line but grounded just short after terrific Hull defence. A Sneyd penalty goal deepened the Rhinos woes after Matt Prior was penalised for the tackle and then marched back another ten metres for something he said to the referee.
When Robert Lui picked up the ball from an offside position on fifty-one Sneyd accepted the penalty goal from under the posts to put Hull four scores ahead. As the game wore on the Hull dominance became clear over a very mediocre Rhinos performance.
Naulago got his second on fifty-six, ghosting past a non-existant Rhinos defence after tapping a penalty under the Rhinos sticks. There was no wide right defence from the Rhinos as the winger had a walk in try. Sneyd couldn’t convert in the driving rain but FC had an unassailable 24-0 lead.
On sixty-three the Rhinos finally scored their first points of the season as Ash Handley was on the overlap wide left to take a Jack Walker pass to score. Rhyse Martin couldn’t kick the goal from the touchline as the Leeds crowd tried to raise their players.
After the Tigers conceded a penalty on their thirty, the Rhinos moved the ball to Handley who flew over by the left corner flag but after the decision was sent to the video referee as a TRY, it was over-ruled and denied by Rob Hicks.
Five minutes from time Manu Ma’u was held up over the line but three minutes later Savelio was the provider for Jamie Shaul to slide over the line and get the ball on the ground. Sneyd added the conversion to bring up the thirty and seal a 30-4 win.
The brave new dawn has not arrived at Headingley as was hoped for, and to some extent, expected. Instead what we were treated to today was a superb Hull FC performance as they took apart the home side and served notice that they will be one of the teams to be reckoned with in 2020. FC will go into their derby game next week full of confidence while the Rhinos will have a week to pick up the pieces ahead of a difficult looking trip to Huddersfield.
Rhinos: Walker, Newman, Sutcliffe, Hurrell, Handley (T), Lui, Gale, Prior, Dwyer, Oledzki, Martin, Ward, Smith. Subs: Mellor, Myler, Cuthbertson, Donaldson.
FC: Shaul (T), Faraimo, Tuimavave (T), Griffin, Nualago (2T), Connor, Sneyd (5G), Taylor, Johnstone, Sao, Ma’u, Jones, Ellis. Subs: Satae, Lane, Bowden (T), Savelio.
Referee: Ben Thaler.