While the losers of Saturday afternoon’s clash between Hull FC and the Leeds Rhinos were not mathematically out of the race for the top six, and a play off place, the likelihood was that any practical chance that the loser would have of making the end of season knock out games would be highly unlikely.
Both sides came into the game on twenty points, four behind the play off place currently occupied by the Warrington Wolves who had a simultaneous kick-off in a home banker against the Castleford Tigers. A Wolves win would see today’s losers needing to win all three of their remaining games while hoping that those around them did them a series of big favours.
In reality, this was just a dead rubber, but Hull FC were the favourites with the bookies to take the two points and further their fans agony for another make or break weekend.
FC had the early running and the early advantage but squandered a couple of chances as both sides tried to give the ball some air in the opening exchanges.
The Rhinos opened the scoring with Luke Hooley benefitting from a James McDonnell grubber kick as he took the ball and went down the line before going over in the corner. Rhyse Martin was unable to add the conversion from the touchline.
When Brad Fash tackled a Leeds player off the ball, Martin slotted over the penalty goal and the Rhinos had a 6-0 lead, a little against the run of play.
On nineteen Jordan Lane and Adam Swift combined, the free-scoring winger outsmarting Leeds full-back Hooley to score in the corner. Jake Clifford was unable to add the conversion from wide, the crowd shrieking at the officials as they were convinced that it had passed between the uprights.
Sam Lisone and James Donaldson were involved in a nice one-two as the two substitutes combined, Lisone crossing for the four pointer on a rare Rhinos attack. Martin added the conversion, the Rhinos eight points ahead.
A mistake from Harvey Barron gave the Rhinos the change to score again and after good work by Cameron Smith in drawing the defenders, a pass to Lisone let him over for his second try of the afternoon for a soft try. Martin added the conversion for 18-4 with three minutes of the half remaining.
Straight from the kick-off there was a Hull FC knock-on, and after picking up the ball Jack Sinfield was held up over the line. On the last tackle Martin found David Fusitu’a in support to dive over in the corner for the fourth Rhinos try of the afternoon. Martin was unable to add the conversion from wide, Leeds with a 22-4 lead and easing themselves towards the two points.
Warrington struck back on forty-eight when Barron went down the wing off an Andre Savelio pass to tiptoe down the touchline and dive over in the corner. Clifford was unable to add the conversion.
Cameron Scott grabbed another try on sixty as he picked up a ricochet off a Leeds hand to run over unopposed. Clifford missed a third conversion attempt, Leeds now just ten points ahead and the Wolves gaining in confidence.
Lisone completed his hat-trick with a forty-metre spring for the line, wrong-footing the Hull full-back Jamie Shaul, to cross and celebrate an amazing treble as he scored under the posts to give Martin a simple kick for 28-12, the game won with just over five minutes remaining.
The Rhinos took the two points to extend their interest in the 2023 season for a week longer while effectively extinguishing the hopes of Hull FC to make the top six from a now all but mathematically impossible position. The Rhinos still need to win their remaining three games, two of which are against the two sides in the competition, while also relying on the sides immediately above them to have a poor run in. Two sides who probably don’t deserve to extend their season played out a competitive game which lacked skill and finesse.
Hull FC: Shaul, Swift (T), Sutcliffe, Scott (T), Barron (T), Lovodua, Clifford, Fash, Houghton, Taylor, Lane, Savelio, Cator. Subs: Brown, Dwyer, Hoy, Satae. 18th Man: Wainhouse.
Leeds Rhinos: Hooley (T), Fusitu’a (T), Newman, Roberts, Olpherts, Martin (4G), Sinfield, Oledzki, O’Connor, Holroyd, McDonnell, Walters, Smith. Subs: Gannon, Lisone (3T), Ruan, Donaldson. 18th Man: Edgell.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 4-10, 4-12, 4-16, 4-18 : HT: 4-22, 8-22, 12-22, 12-26, 12-28 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Leeds.
Referee: Tom Grant.