Saturday 22nd September set a daunting stage for the Rhinos 1st home league match; the dry weather, sunshine and uncompromisingly hard ground arguably lent favour to the visiting London New Zealand team. The home team however, hurting after an abusively convincing defeat away the previous weekend, were not going to take anything lying down.
The Rhinos chased the kick off with enthusiasm, looking to put in the big hits after getting fired up by a rousing pre-game pep. Unfortunately enthusiasm can lack composure, and after just 5 minutes of fairly sustained attack from the Kiwis centres, the first points belonged to the visitors, 0 -7. Despite the urge for the team to drop their heads something stirred among the Rhinos, the home support and the desire to leave the pitch as victors bought sobriety to the home team game. What followed was a Rhinos game with serious intent, simple phases and tight forward play meant secure ball for the backs to really pressurise the New Zealand back line. The rest of the first half saw the two teams well matched, pressure building on both sides finally collapsed in the Rhinos favour which saw Carl Brown finally crash over the line.
Still trailing but with a renewed sense of purpose, the Rhinos resumed play, both teams exchanging heavy hits whilst trying to establish a hold on the match. The Kiwi scrum dominated, though thankfully few in number given the conditions, the Rhinos keeping the edge in the lineout. Emotions fraught, it all became too much for star no.8 Cameron Howson who saw red at the breakdown and lashed out at an opposition player seen to be killing the ball, in what was later described as a brutal ‘tickling of the boot’ the referee had no choice but to send Cammie to the bin. The Rhinos now down to 14 men, the half came to a close with the visitors sliding through the centre of the park, and running in the easiest points of the match for a 14 – 5 lead.
Rousing words at half time confirmed what Haringey knew at heart; that the game was there to win. Phases linked together well, better support from the forwards gave way to the sort of continuity only previously found in the dreams of Coach Fletcher. After 10 minutes of territorial exchange between the two sides, the pressure gave in favour of the home team now complete with 15 men, as Tom Love glided over the line bringing the scores to 10-14.
London New Zealand however had not come to lose, and a further 10 minutes of play saw the visitors finally batter through a resilient defence and extend their lead 21-10. Not to be deterred Haringey stuck to form and soon found more points in the ‘casually massive’ form of the resident Hollywood star Dave Afreh. Just minutes later back row newcomer Greenie bust through the loose defence of the tiring Kiwis and finally gave the Rhinos the lead at 24-21.
Spurred on by the turn in the scorecard, the intensity never let up, but Haringey were still showing their full potential. Tom Armer, who had enjoyed a number of breaks throughout the game, finally capitalised on an opportunity which saw the home team pull away to a more comfortable 29-21 with just 5 minutes remaining on the clock. The exact score was uncertain for the majority of the Rhinos however, which only served to fuel the intensity of the match on both sides. London New Zealand piled on the pressure and kept the territory to the last whistle, just managing to break down the green walls of defence and end the game with a try, 29 – 26 Rhinos.
Such a change in performance since the previous games loss you would have been forgiven for thinking it was a different Haringey team playing, proving beyond doubt the teams worth, and giving promise for another tough win at Hitchin away next week.