In a remarkable display of dominance, the Leeds Rhinos unleashed a devastating performance, scoring nine tries and securing a resounding 54-0 victory over the Huddersfield Giants. The sensational result, however, was not the only highlight of the evening, as the club utilised the special matchday to raise awareness for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and show support for the legendary Rhinos player, Rob Burrow, and his family – Lindsey, Macy, Maya, and Jackson.
Before the game even commenced, the spotlight was firmly placed on the Burrow family and the MND community. Pre-match and halftime proceedings centred around their presence, paying tribute to their unwavering spirit and strength. Witnessing this heartfelt tribute, the Burrows then observed the Rhinos’ absolute control over the Giants, with David Fusitu’a, Rhyse Martin, and Sam Walters each contributing two tries to the remarkable victory.
The Rhinos welcomed back Aidan Sezer and David Fusitu’a to the starting lineup, while Sam Lisone made a triumphant return from injury and took his place on the bench. The team’s forward pack remained largely unchanged, with Rhyse Martin shifting to the centre position, allowing James Bentley and James McDonnell to join the second row. The only absentee from the previous defeat to Wakefield, Leon Ruan, made way for Lisone, who was among the substitutes alongside Corey Johnson, James Donaldson, and Justin Sangare.
The first half showcased a masterclass from the Rhinos as they swiftly established a commanding 22-0 lead. Sam Walters, Richie Myler, David Fusitu’a, and Ash Handley all crossed the try line, leaving the Giants visibly unsettled. Leeds’s impeccable kicking game, orchestrated by Aidan Sezer and the exceptional Blake Austin, constantly trapped their opponents in-goal, piling on the pressure.
The scoring spree commenced with a try from Sam Walters, igniting the roaring crowd at Headingley, as the prop forward powered over the line courtesy of a well-executed play from Cam Smith. Building on their momentum, the Rhinos extended their lead before the 20-minute mark. Chris Hill’s valiant effort to regain ground for Huddersfield was thwarted when a poor kick on the last tackle allowed Ash Handley to comfortably retrieve the ball for Leeds. A lightning-quick attack ensued, with Blake Austin exhibiting remarkable agility to evade five attempted tackles before linking up with Richie Myler for a breathtaking try. Rhyse Martin confidently converted, securing a 12-0 advantage for the Rhinos.
Leeds wasted no time in adding a third try to their tally, capitalising on the Giants’ struggles to maintain possession. Blake Austin orchestrated the play once again, slipping through a gap in the Huddersfield defence and seamlessly offloading to Ash Handley for an effortless finish.
Although James McDonnell was denied a try due to a knock-on in the build-up, the Rhinos continued to apply relentless pressure, leaving the Giants shellshocked. Sam Lisone and Justin Sangare made notable contributions off the bench, while Huddersfield’s disciplinary issues hindered their progress. Chris McQueen’s knock-on from Sam Lisone’s intended pass to Jarrod O’Connor gifted Leeds a scrum opportunity 20 meters from the try line. In one fluid motion, Aidan Sezer and Richie Myler coordinated their efforts to send David Fusitu’a over for a try, marking his triumphant return to the side.
As the first half drew to a close, Blake Austin attempted to add insult to injury with a drop goal, narrowly missing the mark. However, the Rhinos wasted no time in maintaining their momentum as the second half commenced. Huddersfield’s early pressure soon fizzled out when Aidan Sezer capitalised on an opening, sprinting forward with Richie Myler in support. Myler, despite being chased down by defenders, managed to release the ball to James McDonnell, who completed the try. Rhyse Martin, the standout player of the match, converted the try and later added a penalty goal, extending Leeds’ lead to a commanding 30-0.
David Fusitu’a came close to scoring a second try, but his efforts were thwarted by Jake Bibby’s solid defence over the try line. Nonetheless, the Giants’ misfortunes continued as Oliver Russell’s pass was intercepted by Ash Handley, who embarked on a desperate sprint towards the try line. Although tackled by Leroy Cudjoe, Handley’s persistence earned him a place in the sin bin for holding down the Leeds player. It didn’t take long for the Rhinos to capitalise on the resulting advantage. Corey Johnson, freshly introduced into the game, made a penetrating run from the dummy half and offloaded to Sam Walters, who claimed his second try of the evening.
The floodgates were now wide open for Leeds, with the duo of Blake Austin and Richie Myler showcasing their chemistry once again. Myler’s precise kick found Rhyse Martin in the corner, allowing him to touch down for another try. A late hit on Myler by Chris Hill further exposed Huddersfield’s crumbling defence, enabling David Fusitu’a to rise above his opponent, Senior, and secure his second try of the match. Rhyse Martin converted flawlessly, propelling the score to an astonishing 48-0 with less than ten minutes remaining.
Rob Burrow, watching from the sidelines, witnessed the culmination of an extraordinary evening as the Headingley crowd chanted his name in unison, evoking a heartwarming smile. In a fitting finale, Richie Myler executed a sublime kick over the Giants’ defensive line. Initially appearing manageable for Jermaine McGillvary, the ball was snatched away by the ever-impressive Ash Handley, who, with incredible skill, flicked it behind his back for Rhyse Martin to stroll in and secure a score that propelled Leeds well beyond the 50-point margin. Martin’s conversion added the finishing touch to an exceptional night for the Rhinos.
As the Leeds Rhinos celebrated their emphatic victory, it was clear that the scoreline was not the only triumph of the evening. The unwavering support for the Burrow family and the noble cause of raising awareness for MND brought an added sense of purpose to the match, creating a lasting memory for all involved.