Breaking down Leeds Rhinos’ latest try of the season contender

Aaron Bower
Ash Handley Leeds Rhinos Alamy

The early entertainers of Super League in 2024 are at it again. Leeds Rhinos are basically in competition with themselves to have the try of the season sewn up before the clocks have even gone forward and the pitches have dried up, it seems.

They’ve already scored some spectacular tries, with Ash Handley often the fortunate man to be the one touching down some sublime team efforts. And that was the case again on Saturday afternoon, when Leeds scored arguably their most impressive try yet against Catalans Dragons: finished, of course, by the prolific Handley.

Handley’s name was on the try as the scorer, but it was a magnificent team effort that epitomised how Leeds are trying to play in 2024 – with the likes of Brodie Croft and Cameron Smith at the heart of it. Here’s how they scored it.

Not too dissimilar to the try Handley scored at Hull KR in Round 2, this one also begins with Leeds penned in and under pressure. It’s the last tackle, and while the expectation would be Leeds are going to go left to Matt Frawley to kick, Leeds instead chance their arm and go right through Smith. That catches Catalans out, and Leeds now have the numbers and an overlap.

But there is still work to do: and Croft does it brilliantly. With a player like Croft, it is the little nuances you perhaps so often miss in his game that make him the player he is; and his ability here to carry the ball to the line, draw a Dragons defender and turn it on to Newman is first-class. He simultaneously forces two defenders to commit, but his cut-out ball to Newman also leaves Catalans scrambling.

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Leeds now have a fully-fledged break from deep and there is an element of fortune with what happens next, with a kick bouncing back into the hands of Newman and allowing Leeds to puncture Catalans in centre-field. What follows though is something nobody would perhaps expect: a devastating side-step from Leon Ruan.

Perhaps the most crucial and overlooked aspect of the try is what happens next. Frawley is hauled down by Theo Fages but instinctively forces a quick play-the-ball. That lays the platform for Leeds to finish the break off and score a stunning try – and this is the moment where Leeds’ captain truly comes into his own.

James McDonnell goes in to collect the ball at dummy-half but is ushered out of the way by Smith, who collects and surges left. One of his biggest strengths as a ball-playing loose-forward is his ability to play ‘eyes-up rugby’, and how that is evident here.

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Leeds actually have, effectively, a six-on-three here in this moment. But Catalans have tucked in and tried to shut the Rhinos down as quickly as possible. They have, in effect, told Leeds and Smith that if they want to score, they will have to go wide: and Smith obliges.

The cut-out looping ball that Smith throws is stunning, removing three Catalans players from the game in a heartbeat. There is an argument Fouad Yaha didn’t need to tuck in as much but in truth, he had no choice: as the gap in-field would be too big, giving Smith a much easier pass. He made things as difficult as possible for the Leeds captain but even then, he wasn’t able to prevent a try.

It is a pass which has drawn comparisons with the likes of Kevin Sinfield and Sean O’Loughlin, who were notorious for passes of that nature. O’Loughlin’s in a derby against St Helens is still regarded by many as one of the most outrageous passes the competition has ever seen. This one ranks in the conversation, too.

But it wouldn’t have happened had a number of Leeds players not laid the platform. It is a try which probably revolves around Smith’s pass – and the subsequent buzz online has suggested that is the case. But it is a brilliant team move, and underlines how the Rhinos are prepared to play high-risk, off-the-cuff rugby in 2024.

They are already looking like one of, if not the, most entertaining teams in Super League.

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