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Rhinos took big challenge by horns.

Byline: JOHN LAWLESS SCRUMS DOWN ON THE RUGBY LEAGUE SCENE

IT may seem an odd thing to say given the final scoreline, but Leeds Rhinos didn't disgrace themselves in the World Club Challenge in Melbourne yesterday.

Fair enough, 38-4 in Melbourne Storm's favour tells us the Australian side were much the superior side. But Leeds went into the game as massive underdogs and lived up to their promise to give it a go.

In the end, they probably paid the price for trying to play an open and expansive game against what is, by any standards, a great Melbourne team. The pre-match storm in Melbourne surrounded a late decision to impose the Aussie-style two-referee system when, according to Leeds, it had been originally agreed there would be one.

The decision was probably a reaction to the previous week's Wigan-Hull Super League game which was played in Wollongong which, by Australian standards, was an interference-at-the-play-the-ball-athon. Leeds started the more urgent and enthusiastic team, looking to keep the ball alive in trademark fashion. They opened the scoring on nine minutes when Stevie Ward's cut-out pass found left winger Ryan Hall who crashed in at the corner to make it 4-0. After taking a while to wake from their slumber, the Storm hit back when impressive young half-back Brodie Croft's short ball sent powerhouse Jesse Bromwich over.

Cameron Smith surprisingly hit the post with the relatively easy conversion but he was on target after 23 minutes as he converted Croft's close range try.

Leeds worked their way back upfield and forced a goalline dropout but disastrously Hall allowed the restart to bounce into touch. That error allowed Melbourne to dominate the latter stages of the first half.

A Smith penalty added two points to the Storm tally and with the last play of the half, Melbourne winger Suliasi Vunivalu sliced through the opposition for a six-pointer which made it 18-4 at half-time.

When giant Storm substitute forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona proved unstoppable nine minutes into the second half and Smith converted, the Rhinos were looking down the barrel.

Leeds were starting to give penalties away as tiredness set in and from the resulting field position, Felise Kaufusi's try made it 28-4 on 57 minutes. A Croft cross-kick created a score for Storm centre Will Chambers and Melbourne showed why they're a champion team when they chased back to deny Rhinos skipper Kallum Watkins a long range interception try. The home side finished off with a converted try for Dale Finucane.

Leeds, outclassed but unbowed, will be hoping there is no World Club hangover when they visit Widnes in Super League next Sunday afternoon.

MELBOURNE: Slater; Vunivalu, Chambers, Scott, Ado-Carr; Munster, Croft; J Bromwich, C Smith, Glasby, Kaufusi, Hoffman, Finucane. Subs: B Smith, Asofa-Solomona, K Bromwich, Welch.

LEEDS: Walker; Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall; Moon, Myler; Cuthbertson, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Ward. Subs: Dwyer, Delaney, Keinhorst, Ormondroyd. MOM: Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 17, 2018
Words:486
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