Super League: Leeds Rhinos 22-14 Leigh Centurions
|Betfred Super League|
|Leeds (14) 22|
|Tries: Cuthbertson 2, Briscoe, Moon Goals: Sutcliffe 3|
|Leigh (10) 14|
|Tries: Dawson 2, Paterson Goals: Drinkwater|
Leeds responded well to last week's defeat at Super League bottom club Widnes by doing enough to beat 11th-placed Leigh at rain-hit Headingley.
After early tries for the hosts by Adam Cuthbertson and Tom Briscoe, added to by Joel Moon, Leeds' lead was only 14-10 at the break, in a scrappy contest.
Winger Matty Dawson made light of an injury to score twice, one converted.
Cuthbertson's second try was improved by Liam Sutcliffe, who added a penalty before a Leigh try for Cory Paterson.
Having scored right on the hooter, Josh Drinkwater, who made only one of his three conversion attempts, missed with the final kick.
On a tough night for goalkickers, in such wet conditions, Rhinos full-back Sutcliffe only landed three of his seven attempts at goal.
Third-placed Leeds, who were without the suspended Stevie Ward and injured Ashton Goulding and Brett Delaney, had the important presence of Danny McGuire back in their ranks, while Keith Galloway and Carl Ablett both returned after injury.
Leigh had to play with 12 men for 20 minutes of the second half, after yellow cards for Antoni Maria and Dayne Weston, both sin-binned for late tackles on McGuire.
Both sides were playing their third game in eight days as a result of the fixture schedule drawn up to incorporate a pre-season England training camp which did not go ahead.
Last weekend's Spring Bank Holiday double fixture list, consisting of games largely played both on Friday and Monday, was the second of the season following the traditional busy Easter period - and the physical toll on both sets of players was evident.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott:
"We had to deal with the weather - it was an unbelievably greasy ball - and there were 24 penalties awarded in the game. But I won't criticise the players. It was the third game in seven days.
"What do you expect? It's crazy. It's wrong. It doesn't work. We've got a longer week building up to the Wakefield game but it'll be in their bones still next week.
"My boys are shot in there. You can't overestimate the physical demands put on them. You ask anyone who does a marathon, or something which is a big ask physically, it's not just a couple of days' rest.
"Rugby league is one of the hardest sports in the world. I've got a bit of history in boxing and that's probably the hardest sport ever - both mentally and physically - but they only box every three months.
"We wouldn't be too far behind the physical demands of a boxer and the players do it every seven days. It wrecks their bodies."
Leigh head coach Neil Jukes:
"We've had to cope with this schedule with a more depleted squad than probably anyone in Super League. We had seven injured and two banned before we started.
"It's been four games in 12 days for us against the top four teams - Hull, Castleford, Salford and Leeds. Hopefully we don't have to do it again.
"It's obviously our first year in Super League and we've caught the brunt of that.
"But I'm still glad we're in this competition, playing at these arenas and against the players we are."
Leeds: L Sutcliffe; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Garbutt, Parcell, Singleton, Ferres, Jones-Buchanan, Cuthbertson.
Replacements: Galloway, Handley, Mullally, Ablett.
Leigh: McNally; Naughton, Brown, Fleming, Dawson; Hampshire, Drinkwater; Acton, Hood, Weston, Vea, Paterson, Burr.
Replacements: Pelissier, Tickle, Maria, Hopkins.
Sin bin: Maria (42), Weston (70).
Referee: James Child (RFL).