Harlequins 28-24 Leeds

They may have brought a full complement of star players with them down to London this weekend but Leeds Rhinos certainly didn’t bring that game-dominating mindset for which they’re famous. After a thrilling, and occasionally hot-tempered, afternoon of solid rugby league the Harlequins came away with a deserved victory over the league leaders. nnStraight from the off the Rhinos were hammering at Harlequin’s defensive door, and despite an uncharacteristic handling error from Leuluai Leeds kept up the pressure on the ‘quins defensive line to send Great Britain captain Jamie Peacock over after just three minutes. nnHarlequins were not to be out done, however, and in the face of some serious flair from Leeds’ Scott Donald and Rob Burrow they maintained the pressure on the Rhino’s line. Some heavy hitting and ostentatious passing created just enough overlap for promising 18 yr old Will Sharp to score. Veteran Henry Paul added the extras and levelled the tally. nnThe Rhinos had plenty of energy in the first half, but it never quit came together as the fans would hope. Scott Donald broke out another trade-mark run through the opposition defensive line but was held at 40 metres, more for lack of support than anything else. The ball was moved out to man-mountain Senior who made a brave push but it came to nothing as Leeds spilled the ball near the try-line.nnHarlequins proved unshakeable in the face of some very standard Leeds attacking play, and after 15 minutes they found the room to push Hill over the try line and the conversion from Henry Paul eked out a lead. This put the fire in the Rhinos’ belly and a sensational break from Danny McGuire took him ¾ of the length of the pitch, holding off until he could see the whites of their eyes before off-loading to Burrow who deployed his trade-mark side-step and scampered over the line. The referee went for the ‘square in the air’ and the video ref agonised over a potential obstruction by Sinfield, perhaps distracted by the obscenely tight shorts of the linesman, before calling a no-try and handing the initiative to the home side. Henry Paul put the resultant penalty over to take Harlequins lead to 14 – 6.nnShortly afterwards in the first of a number of altercations during the game, a disagreement over a late tackle led to a bit of afters with Danny McGuire and sharp talking to from referee Ashley Klein. This did little to take the Rhinos’ eye off the ball, though, and a dubious knock-on decision seven minutes from the break gave Leeds possession and eventually led to Burrow setting up Donald’s first of two tries. nnComing out of the gate after half time with everything to play for at 14-12 the Harlequins were throwing their full weight at Leeds. A bugger’s muddle at the try line early on gave Chad Randall a notch on the score sheet and Henry Paul again contributed to take the ‘quins lead to 20-12. nnLots of in-your-face tackling from the Rhinos didn’t dampen the Harlequin’s appetite for the kick and chase throughout the second half and they regularly escaped much of the Leeds pressure. Eventually though another blazing dash from Danny McGuire took the Rhinos sixty metres, followed by sustained pressure at the try-line and a Herculean effort from Senior to score. The score stood at 20 – 16 with a little over 20 minutes to go and it was still an open game. nnSenior quickly undid his good deeds by sparking a mass brawl with Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, earning a spell in the sin bin, and Henry Paul put the penalty over to stretch the Harlequins’ lead. Shortly afterwards some consummate passing exposed a woeful gap in the Leeds defence which Nigerian-born Will Sharp exploited for his second score of the afternoon, and the game began to get away from Leeds. nnTwo late tries from the ever-resourceful Rob Burrow and Scott Donald couldn’t make amends for Leeds’ lack of concentration, however, and with Sinfield off form in the kicking stakes it was left for Harlequins to run out the clock on a well-fought win at 28 – 24.

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