Brian McDermott: Leeds Rhinos deserved to edge thriller

Published: Saturday 26th September 2015 by The News Editor

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Leeds coach Brian McDermott believes his side deserved their last-gasp win over Huddersfield that enabled them to snatch the league leaders’ shield from Wigan’s grasp.

The John Smith’s Stadium was no place for the faint-hearted as the Rhinos staged a thrilling comeback with 12 points in the last seven minutes to grab a 20-16 win over the Giants as the race for top spot went to the final whistle.

With Wigan winning comfortably against Castleford and Leeds trailing 16-8, Super League general manager Blake Solly, on board the helicopter hired by the governing body to deliver the league leaders’ shield, took the decision to head for Wigan and they were in sight of the DW Stadium when Leeds began their amazing late fightback.

Right winger Tom Briscoe, hero of Leeds’ Challenge Cup final at Wembley, went over on 73 minutes and, in the final act of a dramatic game, left winger Ryan Hall ran onto Danny McGuire’s pinpoint kick over the Huddersfield defence to score the match-winning try.

“It was some ending,” McDermott said. “You wonder whether you deserved to win but I have no issues with winning that game whatsoever.

“They’re a tough team to play, so to finish in the fashion we have done is pleasing. We didn’t play overly well but I thought we deserved it.

“I thought we got our honesty back in defence against a very good side. We’ve been flimsy in the last three weeks.”

Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield looked to have earned his side a draw, and with it a home semi-final, by kicking a late penalty goal and McDermott felt the league leaders’ shield was beyond them at that point.

“I wasn’t confident,” McDermott said. “We didn’t have that offensive momentum. Huddersfield were just too full of energy and snuffing out everything we tried to throw at them in the second half.

“It was a special play from Maggsy to do that and it’s not the first time he’s showed that vision and skill.”

Leeds’ reward is a semi-final against St Helens at Headingley on Friday but they look certain to be without second rower Stevie Ward, who scored their opening try but had to be helped from the field five minutes from the end with what appears to be a cruciate ligament injury.

“It’s a tough one,” McDermott said. “It looks like he’s done his mcl side of his knee.

“You can’t keep losing bodies. We’re already without Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Paul Aiton, Liam Sutcliffe and possibly Stevie Ward now so it’s worrying.”

When Huddersfield scrum-half Jamie Ellis went over for a 65th-minute try, to add to in-form winger Jermaine McGillvary’s 27th try of the season, the home side were briefly in pole position to claim the league leaders’ shield but they must now go to Wigan in the first semi-final on Thursday.

Giants coach Paul Anderson was proud of his players’ efforts but disappointed with the performance of referee Robert Hicks.

“The penalty under our sticks with a couple of minutes to go was disgraceful,” Anderson said. “If that’s a penalty, he should have blown for another 30.

“The referee is probably not the reason we lost the game but he had a fair impact on it.

“I thought we were very good, we played very well in a play-off style atmosphere. Those games are about taking opportunities when they come and I thought we did.

“I’d sooner lose this than lose next week. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to dust ourselves down and win next week because that’s the one that matters.”

Published: Saturday 26th September 2015 by The News Editor

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