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Page last updated at 21:50 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Leeds 28-6 Celtic Crusaders

Leeds (22) 28
Tries: Smith 2, Donald, Hall, Ablett Goals: Sinfield 4
Celtic Crusaders (0) 6
Tries: Dyer Goals: Hannay

Lee Smith scores his first try of the evening
Lee Smith scored the first points of Super League XIV

Champions Leeds Rhinos began the defence of their Super League crown with a comfortable win over newcomers Celtic Crusaders at Headingley.

Two first-half tries from Lee Smith, along with scores from Scott Donald and Ryan Hall gave Leeds a 22-0 lead.

The visitors made a significant improvement in the second half as Jace van Wijk combined with Luke Dyer for the winger to touch down on 55 minutes.

But Carl Ablett's last-minute try ensured Leeds ended on a positive note.

A spirited second-half performance will encourage Crusaders coach John Dixon, whose pre-season preparations had been hampered by work permit issues with eight new signings.

But his side were thoroughly outclassed in the first 40 minutes as Leeds continued their preparations for their World Club Challenge encounter against Manly Sea Eagles on 1 March.

Leeds, without new signing Danny Buderus and New Zealand full-back Brent Webb, scored the first points of Super League XIV when Smith crossed over after excellent work from Keith Senior and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

And Donald extended the lead six minutes later after a wonderful reverse offload in the tackle from 17-year-old Kallum Watkins.


The Crusaders were the architects of their own downfall in Leeds' third try when Tony Duggan's risky pass was intercepted by Hall, who sprinted over for one of the easier tries of his career.

The visitors thought they had scored their firstSuper League points on 32 minutes when Darren Mapp burst through the Leeds defence.

But referee Ben Thaler referred the try to video referee Richard Silverwood, who deemed that the Crusaders' Jordan James had purposely collided into Danny McGuire in the build-up to the score.

And to further compound the Crusaders' disappointment, Leeds were 20 points ahead a minute later when Smith touched down for his second score.

Hall collected a fine hanging kick from McGuire before Paul McShane fed the full-back on the inside.

With Kevin Sinfield adding six points with the boot, Leeds opened up a healthy advantage over their beleaguered opponents.

The home fans thought try number five had been scored five minutes after the half-time break when Watkins sauntered through, but his celebrations were cut short when referee Thaler ruled out the score.

The decision galvanised the Crusaders' resolve and they were rewarded with their first ever Super League points when Dyer chased down captain van Dijk's excellent grubber kick to outpace Hall to the touchdown on 55 minutes, with Josh Hannay adding the extras.

Both teams were down to 12 men in the final 10 minutes when Jamie Peacock and Adam Peek were sin-binned for fighting after a scrum.

Senior had a try chalked off by video referee Silverwood in the final five minutes, but Ablett's late score ensured the champions ended the match on a high.

Leeds: Smith, Donald, Watkins, Senior, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauitiiti, Ablett. Replacements: Kirke, Burgess, Allan, Mcshane.

Celtic Crusaders: Duggan, Dyer, Hannay, Dalle Cort, Blackwood, Smith, Van Dijk, O'Hara, Budworth, Bryant, Peek, Mapp, Lupton. Replacements: Quinn, Flower, J. James, Beasley.

Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield)

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