The Leeds Rhinos welcomed fans back to Headingley for the first time in 444 days as they hosted the old enemy in the form of the Black and Whites of Hull FC.
The Rhinos escaped with the points last time out thanks to a golden point win over Wakefield Trinity but for the evening kick-off they welcome back Richie Myler and Zane Tetevano, the later after a four game suspension. Hull declared Adam Swift fit to play after getting injured last week and Bureta Faraimo made his return.
A big win for FC would lift them into the top four but they knew that the Rhinos were also looking to gain a couple of places if they could get a convincing victory in front of their much smaller than usual home crowd.
Pouring rain greeted the sides into a great Headingley atmosphere, eagerly anticipating a close match.
A Marc Sneyd 40-20 in the opening minute set out the FC stall but the Rhinos survived that and an enforced drop-out to bring the ball away from their own line.
When Konrad Hurrell had the ball stolen in the tackle, and the Rhinos got a set restart, they used all of their available tackles for Luke Gale to get the ball to Liam Sutcliffe who dragged a couple of tacklers with him and stretched to ground the ball on the line for the opening score on ten minutes. Rhyse Martin added the conversion for a 6-0 lead to the Rhinos.
Hull moved things up a notch and on nineteen Adam Swift found himself on a big overlap to take a Jake Connor long pass and coast around the outside edge of the Rhinos defence to cross. Marc Sneyd added the conversion to level the scores.
On the back of three consecutive sets of six the Rhinos were finally handed a penalty for an offside and Martin kicked the goal for a two-point lead.
After absorbing good Leeds pressure Josh Griffin made a break going through the Leeds defence from his own forty and found Swift in support to complete the move from thirty metres and dive over for his second try of the game. Sneyd added the conversion for a 12-8 lead.
Three minutes from the interval Griffin stepped past an ineffective Hurrell defence to scamper in for a simple try. Sneyd added the conversion and the Airlie Birds led by 18-8 at the interval.
Tom Briscoe and Richie Myler both had tries ruled out by the video official within a few seconds of one another, just before the hour mark.
The second half had been wall-to-wall Leeds pressure, but sensational Hull defence kept their line intact as the Rhinos failed to find a way through until with three and a half minutes left on the clock Tom Briscoe finally found a way through after a Myler and Dwyer crossover play. The centre slid into goal to ground, but Martin failed to kick the conversion, the Rhinos still six points behind as the clock ran down to an FC win.
Rarely has a side dominated a half of rugby so completely and only managed to cross the whitewash on a single occasion. All credit to a superb Hull FC defence who repelled wave after wave of Leeds attack to hang on to their first half advantage and take a six-point victory. The Rhinos fans go home disappointed, but the Airlie Birds fans will be dancing around their living rooms.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Briscoe L, Hurrell, Briscoe T (T), Handley, Gale, Sutcliffe L (T), Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin (2G), Tetevano. Subs: Dwyer, Vuniyayawa, Donaldson, Gannon.
Hull FC: Connor, Fonua, Tuimavave, Griffin (T), Swift (2T), Reynolds, Sneyd (3G), Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Ma’u, Lane. Subs: Cator, Faraimo, Fash, Johnstone.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 6-6, 8-6, 8-10, 8-12, 8-16, 8-18 : HT: 12-18 : FT.