In Round 21 of the Betfred Super League, a highly anticipated match between Leeds Rhinos and Leigh Leopards took place at Headingley, but it turned out to be a disappointing display for the home team. The final score saw Leeds Rhinos lose 13-6 to the resilient Leigh Leopards in a low-scoring affair.
In the first half, the only try for Leeds was scored by Jarrod O’Connor, who managed to break through the Leopards’ defence. Despite their efforts, the Rhinos were unable to capitalise further, and the Leopards secured their victory with a crucial drop goal from Gareth O’Brien in the dying minutes of the game.
Before the match, the Rhinos made some changes to their lineup compared to the previous round. Corey Johnson returned to the halves, filling in the void left by the departure of Blake Austin to Castleford. Luke Hooley also made his way back to the starting lineup after featuring for Batley in the Championship. Additionally, Luis Roberts started at centre due to David Fusitu’a still undergoing the return-to-play protocol from a head injury assessment. Tom Holroyd was the only change in the forwards, taking the place of Sam Walters. On the bench, notable players included Jack Sinfield, Sam Lisone, Justin Sangare, and James Donaldson, who achieved his 100th-game milestone for the Rhinos.
On the other side, despite their upcoming Wembley trip, Leigh showed their intent by fielding influential players such as Lachlan Lam, Edwin Ipape, John Asiata, and debutant Oliver Gildart.
The match began with intense early pressure from the Rhinos as they looked to gain an advantage. However, a tackle in the air by Gareth O’Brien on Ash Handley during a high kick from Aidan Sezer thwarted their efforts. The Rhinos seemed close to scoring when Jarrod O’Connor appeared to force his way over the try line, but the referee called him short.
Throughout the first half, both teams played a cautious game, with neither willing to give the other an edge. Leeds had their opportunities, but obstruction by Roberts and defensive efforts from the Leopards denied them points. Eventually, the deadlock was broken when Edwin Ipape scored for Leigh after they forced a drop-out from the Rhinos.
Trailing by four points, Leeds responded strongly, buoyed by the support of their home crowd. They managed to get on the scoreboard just before the break when O’Connor scored his try. A powerful run from James Bentley created the opportunity, and O’Connor capitalised on it, resulting in a 6-4 lead for the Rhinos at halftime after Rhyse Martin’s successful conversion.
However, the second half didn’t start well for Leeds as Leigh regained the lead early on. Sangare left the field due to injury, and the Rhinos were caught offside, allowing Leigh’s Tom Amone to score their second try of the match.
The situation worsened for the Rhinos when Lisone was sin-binned for a trip on Joe Wardle, giving Leigh another chance to extend their lead. They took advantage of the penalty, and Ben Reynolds successfully converted a kick to bring the score to 12-6 in favour of the Leopards.
Despite Leeds’ defensive efforts, they couldn’t manage to close the gap, and a potential second try from O’Connor was denied after a close review from the video referee. In the final moments, Gareth O’Brien sealed the victory for Leigh with a well-executed drop goal, ending the game with a 13-6 victory for the Leopards.