Leeds moved a step closer to Super League safety as they won 34-6 against a fired-up Halifax at the Shay.
Richard Marshall’s side, who were vastly improved on their Qualifiers form, gave as good as they got for huge swathes of the first meeting between the West Yorkshire rivals in 15 years, but were ultimately undone by a player who has played in the Championship this season in the Rhinos’ hooker Brad Dwyer.
The former Warrington number nine, a dangerman on the same ground for Featherstone a couple of months earlier, scored two quick fire tries at the start of the second half, turning a 6-6 half time deadlock into an 18-6 lead and finally tipping the game decisively in the favour of last season’s Grand Final winners.
Leeds had been off the mark quickly, although while Joel Moon’s inside kick for the try scorer Richie Myler was excellent, there was an element of good fortune as the match officials ignored a suspect pass in the build up.
Nevertheless, Sutcliffe converted and the Rhinos led 6-0 after as many minutes, an ominous sign given Fax’s porous defensive form over the last six weeks.
But slowly but surely the home side worked their way into the contest and were unlucky not to draw level when loose forward Jacob Fairbank saw the ball slip from his grasp as he tried to wrestle over the whitewash with 24 minutes on the clock.
With momentum increasingly flowing their way, Fax did get the reward their efforts deserved on the half hour, Murrell kicking wide for Steve Tyrer and the centre flying high over the defence to claim the ball and the try.
Tyrer converted from touch to level at 6-6 and that was how it stayed until the break as Fax left the field to a standing ovation.
They were behind again within two minutes of the restart though, James Woodburn-Hall, who was otherwise excellent, doing the hard work to claim Myler’s bomb but losing the ball as he hit the ground and Dwyer scoring two plays later.
Sutcliffe converted and although Fax were within centimetres of levelling again when Sion Jones was stopped by a combination of post and defenders a few minutes later, Leeds gave themselves some breathing space when Dwyer popped up again to score and Sutcliffe kicked Leeds 18-6 up.
Sutcliffe then scored and converted to give the Rhinos real breathing space at 24-6.
Fax went close through Shane Grady with 14 minutes remaining, the exceptional Jack Walker holding on to his ankles as he romped through the line, but late scores from Cameron Smith, Luke Briscoe ensured the Rhinos finished well clear.
Halifax: Moss; Woodburn-Hall, Tyrer, Butler, Sharp; Murrell, Johnston; Fleming, Kaye, Fairbank, Tangata, Grady, Moore. Subs: Jones, Heaton, Davies, Maher
Leeds: Walker; T. Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, L. Briscoe; Sutcliffe, Myler; Crosby, Parcell, Singleton, Jones-Buchanan, Peteru, Thompson. Subs: Cuthbertson, Dwyer, Smith, Walters.
Referee: Liam Moore