Bring back the proper tours, we say.
You couldn’t help but be stood on the terraces at Headingley on Friday night and not get a tinge of nostalgia in amongst the excitement.
20-odd thousand packed into Headingley as the treble winners met the reigning Four Nations champions. This needs to happen more often.
We’re not yearning for the days off three or four month-long tours after an already congested season, but Antipodean tourists to this country – and a proper GB tours down under – should at least face a couple of club sides and a representative side as a preparation and addition to the main event of the Test Series.
It was a night of celebration for Leeds and their fans – and indeed, the many neutrals who swelled the gate; the home side bode farewell to Kylie Leuluai and welcomed back Adrian Morley and Ali Lauitiiti for one last run out before they hung their boots up.
But this was not a friendly.
From the moment Isaac Luke – eyes bulging, face contorted – appeared from the huddle for the Kapa o Pango, the massed ranks were in for a treat.
The first real break belonged to Leeds as Leuluai off-loaded to Ward whose one handed flick found Golding on the inside, but the young full back was tackled on the 30 metre mark. The Loiners poured forward, but German international Keinhorst’s pass couldn’t be pulled in by Briscoe.
The Rhinos were the better team in the opening 10 minutes; equal to everything that New Zealand could throw at them and pushing and probing with the ball in hand.
Leeds’ trademark slick handling had Leuluai over the line. Good work from Danny McGuire, Lauitiiti and Joel Moon combined to put big Kylie through a gap, but the final ball was called forward – much to the disappointment of the season’s biggest crowd at Headingley, who finally made some noise when they had something to moan about.
The newly crowned Super League Champions opened the scoring on 26 minutes.
Skipper for the night Danny McGuire popped a kick through on the last for Moon to collect on his knees and the centre was allowed to regain his feet and reach out to touch down to the left of the posts.
Jordan Lilley converted to make it 6-0.
The Kiwis started to get a foothold in the game late in the first half.
Jason Nightingale broke only to be denied by Ash Golding, but it was only a stay of execution.
New Zealand worked the ball from right to left where Jordan Kahu found Nightingale who finished well in the corner.
Luke added the conversion from the touch line to tie the scores.
The tourists took the lead in the dying seconds of the first half.
Isaac Luke scooted from dummy half, 30 metres later the Warriors -bound hooker had found Kahu whose leap and one handed put down was special.
Luke’s kick struck the upright to end an entertaining first 40.
The second hald started with New Zealand in the ascendency, but it was Leeds that crossed first.
Lilley did really well to evade Lolohea and found Moon who stepped Kenny-Dowell on the outside to weave his way to the line.
Lilley’s conversion put the Rhinos back in front on 55 minutes.
Within 5 minutes, though, the Kiwis were back in front.
Replacement hooker Nikorima put Jesse Bromwich though on a crash ball to dot down. Lolohea added the extras.
They then extended that lead from the kick off.
Taupau’s off load to Nikorima was passed on to Tuivasa-Sheck who broke downfield. The retreating home defence caught up with the Kiwis, only for Nightingale to put over a long, looping ball to Dean Whare who had all the time in the world to score. This time the conversion was missed. 12-22
The blitz continued.
New Zealand’s unabated pressure was taking its toll on Leeds’ youngsters.
Bromwich’s footwork at the line sucked in the defence and swift hands from Matulino and Hiku put Roger Tuivasa-Sheck though a gaping hole. The full back just about grounded the ball to end Leeds’ hopes of a fight back.
As fatigue set in, the Rhinos found it more and more difficult to find a way through the New Zealand defence.
The treble winners had to rely on a Kenny-Dowell fumble to break the line. Lauitiiti picked up the loose ball and passed to Briscoe to score in the corner. Lilley missed the kick.
New Zealand continued their march with a try off the back of a penalty after Jordan Lilley had strayed about 9 meters off side from the play the ball.
From the resulting tap, Bromwich passed the ball off the deck and Nikorima smuggled his way over from three metres out. Lolohea converted.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck finished the scoring for the evening. There was a question of obstruction in the build-up – he actually stopped running himself having seen his teammate take out a Leeds defender – but Silverwood is nothing if not inconsistent and the ref waved the full back on to touch down, much to the fury of the Southstand, who stirred to life for the second time all night having had another reason to moan.
This was a proper hit out for New Zealand and a real test (well not a real test, they start next. You know what we mean) and they’ll be a lot better off than England are for playing a second string France team.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, Handley; McGuire, Lilley; Leuluai, R Ward, Morley; Lauitiiti, Walters, Cuthbertson.
Subs: Garbutt, Mullally, Singleton, Achurch, Mulhern, Baldwinson.
New Zealand: Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters); Nightingale (St George-Illowarra) , Kahu (Brisbane), Whare (Penrith), Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters); Hiku (Manly), Lolohea (New Zealand Warriors); Bromwich (Melbourne), Luke (South Sydney) Matulino (New Zealand Warriors); Proctor (Melbourne), Harris (Melbourne), Taupau (Wests).
Subs: Nikorima (Brisbane), Blair (Brisbane), Moa (Sydney Roosters), Taukeiaho (Sydney Roosters), Glenn (Brisbane), Brown (Penrith)