|Leeds (10) 18|
|Tries: Handley, Myler, Lui Goals: Handley, Newman 2|
|Huddersfield (4) 12|
|Tries: Pryce, Wood, Trout|
Leeds Rhinos hero Rob Burrow and his family watched from the stands as his ex-club beat Huddersfield Giants on an emotional night at Emerald Headingley.
Burrow, who is battling motor neurone disease, earned a rapturous reception on his return for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year.
The Rhinos boosted their play-off hopes with the six-point win.
They stay sixth, but distanced themselves from nearest rivals Hull FC, who face neighbours Hull KR on Friday.
Giants, meanwhile, remain ninth, but a Salford win on Sunday would narrow the gap to decimal places as the Super League table will be determined by win points percentage, in case matches – such as Thursday’s postponed Warrington-Catalans tie – are not able to be completed because of the pandemic.
Returning hero receives suitable ovation
While this game was huge for both sides in terms of league positions and play-off hopes, the presence of Burrow gave the evening a very different edge, particularly in the build-up.
Burrow’s story, of a small man who made a career in rugby league amongst hulking giants and who has had his life completely changed by motor neurone disease (MND), has captured the imagination far beyond the sport itself, but it was amongst familiar faces that the man has most resonance.
The eight-time Super League winner and key part of Leeds’ ‘golden generation’ was welcomed back onto the field in a spine-tingling reception with his wife Lindsey and addressed the fans.
His daughters Macy and Maya and son Jackson were also involved, delivering the match ball to referee Ben Thaler.
Leeds and Giants slug it out in bruising game
Once lumps in the throats had subsided and tears were wiped away, it was down to both sides to crack on with a game that retained importance for the would-be play-off hopefuls – particularly Leeds with a closely packed top seven or eight clubs.
Huddersfield could have been forgiven for feeling they were caught in an emotional crosswind, but they were certainly not overawed in a bruising first half.
After Callum Mclelland’s break put Ash Handley in for Leeds, Will Pryce pounced to level up the score, although Richie Myler would dot down after a grubber kick caused panic to give Leeds a half-time lead.
Harry Newman had passed a head injury assessment in the first half to resume, and he kicked two penalty goals after the break to extend the lead before Rob Lui strolled in from a Kruise Leeming dart across the field.
Zane Tetevano was sin-binned in the final 10 minutes to leave Leeds with 12 for the late moments, and Giants in the end might have levelled it up with late scores by Sam Wood and Owen Trout, with goal-kicking letting them down after three tries apiece.
Leeds: Myler; L. Briscoe, Newman, T. Briscoe, Handley; McLelland, Lui; Tetevano, Leeming, Thompson, Donaldson, Gannon, O’Connor.
Interchanges: Holroyd, Dwyer, Walters, Vuniyayawa.
Huddersfield: Golding; Cudjoe, J. Wardle, Wood, Senior; Cogger, Pryce; Trout, Peats, Wilson, Jones, Greenwood, Yates.
Interchanges: Peteru, Russell, English, Hewitt.
Referee: Ben Thaler (RFL)