Crusaders 6-34 Leeds Rhinos

Wintry conditions welcomed Super League rugby to Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground as Leeds opened their defence to the title with a resounding victory over Crusaders, although the scoreline did resemble a harsh reflection of the game.

With the lines barely visible due to the snow that had settled, the firsty forty minutes were evenly matched and Crusaders, under the guidance of former Wigan coach Brian Noble, took the game to Leeds and went in at the break with the scoreline all-square at six points apiece.

But Leeds took no prisoners with their second half performance and racked up four tries in the final quarter of an hour to punish the exhausted Crusaders.

Kallum Watkins‘ early knock-on coupled with a Jamie Jones-Buchanan penalty gifted the chance for the home side to put the first points on the board, Michael Witt duly kicking the two points on offer.

Noble’s men threatened the Leeds line on several occasions and it was only through mistakes and excellent defence that they were prevented from adding to that total.

But the Rhinos were gifted the advantage, arguably against the run of play, when a kick through by Brett Delaney skipped underneath centre Luke Dyer and Scott Donald pounced.

The lead didn’t last long though and the impressive Crusaders squared matters once more when Witt’s cross-field kick was caught by centre Vince Mellars, who gifted Gareth Raynor with the opportunity to dive over in the corner.

The second half remained tight although Crusaders started to tire as the game wore on and Leeds started to dictate play, that showing with four tries in the final quarter.

As Crusaders attacked the Rhinos line again, the ball was picked up and passed to Delaney who managed to create space and pass to the overlapping Danny McGuire, who ran eighty metres to score a magnificently completed try.

Minutes later, the lead was extended once more with Delaney again off-loading in the tackle and, somewhat fortuitously, the ball hit the back of a Crusaders player and bounced kindly into the arms of the waiting Ali Lauitiiti, who scored his fiftieth try in Rhinos colours.

That process continued again as Leeds once more dominated in the forwards and captain Kevin Sinfield scored, and maintained his 100% kicking record, after latching on to an excellent kick through.

And superb debutant Delaney completed an excellent personal performance and wrapped up the victory with a try on his debut after finishing off a superb sweeping move down the Crusaders’ left flank.

There was still time though for Lauitiiti to grab his second try though, given by the video referee, as Leeds finished with a 34-6 victory.

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