Leeds Rhinos 70 Salford Red Devils 6
Jonathan Doidge at Headingley Carnegie
For reasons known only to the sporting Gods, history has a habit of repeating itself in certain fixtures. Take, for example, Warrington’s traditional struggle to get the better of St Helens, or the Red Devils’ desperate record against Leeds since the game switched to the summer era.
Only once in 36 attempts, six years ago on this ground, have Salford lowered the colours of the Rhinos and at no point did they ever look like repeating that feat this time. On the contrary, you could have inked them into the ‘middle eight’ within the first couple of sets. In the parlance of Dr Koukash’s other major sporting interest, the visitors looked like a bunch of selling platers taking on Group 1 opponents and they were beaten by a distance.
Brian McDermott had no doubt who should carry the can for the Red Devils’ record defeat at the hands of his club. “To concede 70 points at times you have got to ask that many questions of the players but I think that on this occasion Marwan Koukash needs to stand up and apologise to everybody,” he said.
“The way he’s conducted himself it embarrasses me to be involved in rugby league. Saying what he wants, when he wants, how he wants and I think he needs to realise that that’s not how you lead a club.
“They’re not that bad that group of players and what you saw out there was a completely demoralised shot group of players who lack confidence. And it isn’t because they’ve got bad coaching. It isn’t because they’ve got bad conditioners, but they are demoralised because of the things that go on off the field.
“I wouldn’t want to be led by a person who’s as erratic and says the things he does about his own group of players. That is absolutely his fault.
“There’s some good people in that team and they don’t give up that easily, so you’ve got to ask the question why. Lessons in leadership. There’s a big one out there for the owner tonight,” fumed the Rhinos coach.
Certainly Tim Sheens won’t have seen many, if any, such one-sided affairs in all his time as a coach in the NRL, or of his national side, and as Director of Football at the A J Bell Stadium, he will now be somewhat clearer on the task ahead.
In a performance that was nothing short of an embarrassment for the Red Devils, Leeds led 40-0 at the break, scoring seven of an eventual 13 tries and they could comfortably have had a half century before the teams turned around, had they not tied themselves in knots on a couple of occasions due to such an abundance of options.
McDermott admitted that he hadn’t seen the score coming. “I think we’ve experienced some second half dips after being so far in front so to continue with that is a decent sign of our intentions.”
“Brett Delaney was outstanding. He’s been riddle with niggling injuries so far this season and he reminded us of why we all regard him so highly.
“Because I have coached London I have been the end of some big scorelines, but I just know that the Salford players are not that bad.”
Red Devils’ assistant Ian Watson agreed. “One hundred per cent they are (better than that). I think they know it themselves as well.
“We’ve just spoken in the changing room. We spoke at half-time. Some of the boys were really honest with each other and they need to be as a group to move forward.
“We had a good week. We had a good two weeks beforehand building up with the Catalan win and the Hull KR. So we definitely didn’t see it coming no. They’ve just not turned up with the right attitude today.
“It’s looking for a response now. It’s how you come back from that. Generally you’ve got to learn your lessons in anything you do and it will be how you respond as a coach, as a player, as a club and as a full team of individuals who come together to perform in that team.”
The Rhinos were without skipper Kevin Sinfield due to a shoulder problem, while Tom Briscoe failed to return as had been expected and Jamie Peacock was rested. Zak Hardaker returned after his one-match suspension, while Robbie Ward was on the bench for his first appearance of the season.
The sole change to the Salford seventeen that had beaten Hull KR in the previous round was the return of their captain Harrison Hansen, so again they had to do without Rangi Chase and they emerged with further issues as Josh Griffin was concussed.
Aside from a Paul Aiton knock-on, which gave Salford the opportunity to score their only try of the game, plus those couple of bombed scores, the Challenge Cup holders rarely made a mistake, but punished a large number of those made by their opponents.
From the moment that Danny McGuire stepped inside former teammate Weller Hauraki to score the opening try there was never any doubt about the outcome.
Aiton had a field day at dummy-half for the first hour or so, running, kicking, creating havoc, while Cuthbertson was again a joy to watch and his compatriot Mitch Garbutt proved a handful to hold with some bullocking runs.
Throw into the mix Hardaker’s blistering pace, McGuire’s organisation, another eyecatching effort from Keinhorst – who morphed back into a centre on the night – plus an army of clinical finishers among their ranks and you got the kind of performance that Leeds have threatened on a number of occasions earlier in 2015.
Cuthbertson took Aiton’s flat pass to cruise over for his team’s second, while Adrian Morley’s high shot on his old mate Burrow resulted in a yellow card and, within a minute, a Kallum Watkins try.
Delaney was first to get downward pressure on Aiton’s grubber for a fourth Leeds score and, after Dobson’s restart went out on the full, the home side again took advantage with a fabulous offload by Ablett and a great spinning take by Hardaker, enabling the fullback to get over on a night when he racked up 26 of his team’s points.
Soon after, Paterson picked the ball up in an offside position and from the penalty Ryan Hall finished off a five-man handling move, before Moon completed the first-half scoring.
Hardaker and Handley exchanged passes as the former got over for his second, before counterpart Niall Evalds latched on to a Dobson grubber to register Salford’s only try.
The procession continued with Leeds averaging a try every five minutes of the final 25. Hall finished off a score that his own midfield break had set up; Keinhorst latched on to Ablett’s bust to grab one; Walters had an argument with the post on route to his first try of the campaign; and there was still time for Ablett to post a late double.
“I Just Can’t Get Enough” rang out the Depeche Mode hit after each try, but this scribe for one would take a competitive contest every time.
1 Zak Hardaker
27 Ash Handley
3 Kallum Watkins
4 Joel Moon
5 Ryan Hall
6 Danny McGuire (C)
7 Rob Burrow
8 Kylie Leuluai
9 Paul Aiton
17 Adam Cuthbertson
20 Jimmy Keinhorst
12 Carl Ablett
15 Brett Delaney
19 Brad Singleton
21 Josh Walters
24 Robbie Ward
30 Mitch Garbutt
Tries: McGuire (7), Cuthbertson (11), Watkins (21), Delaney (25), Hardaker (28, 48), Hall (33, 55), Moon (38), Keinhorst (60), Walters (63), Ablett (66, 79)
Goals: Hardaker 9/13
19 Niall Evalds
2 Ben Jones-Bishop
4 Junior Sa’u
3 Josh Griffin
18 Mason Caton-Brown
14 Theo Fages
7 Michael Dobson
8 Adrian Morley
37 Logan Tomkins
16 Scott Taylor
31 Cory Paterson
12 Weller Hauraki
25 George Griffin
Subs (all used)
11 Harrison Hansen (C)
15 Darrell Griffin
17 Jordan Walne
24 Liam Hood
Tries: Evalds (51)
Goals: Paterson 1/1
Referee: Ben Thaler 67/100
Man of the Match: Paul Aiton – Called many of the shots
Weather: Mild, windy.
Sin Bin: Adrian Morley (high tackle)
Sent Off: N/A
Match rating: 1/5