Leeds go to top

LONDON – Zak Hardaker returned from suspension with a 26-point haul from two touchdowns and nine goals as Leeds went back to the top of the Super League table with a 70-6 destruction of Salford on Friday (Saturday AEST).

Ryan Hall and Carl Ablett also grabbed braces with Kallum Watkins, like Hall, taking his season’s total to 15 tries as the Rhinos ran amok throughout a hugely one-sided encounter.

Seven different try scorers gave Leeds an unassailable 40-0 half time advantage and six more scores after the break ensured the Rhinos of their biggest win of the season.

It was also Leeds’ biggest over Salford in the summer era, further confirming a stranglehold which has seen them win no fewer than 35 of 36 meetings between the sides since Super League’s inception in 1996.

The defeat condemns the Red Devils to scraping for their Super League survival in the ‘Middle Eights’ when the top two divisions split after next week’s 23rd round.

Both sides were without their talismanic playmakers, with Leeds resting record point-scorer Kevin Sinfield due to a shoulder knock, while Salford’s Rangi Chase failed to shake off the back injury which has now kept him out of their last three matches.

Elsewhere, Widnes coach Denis Betts admitted his side’s narrow defeat against Wigan was hard to take and laid the blame squarely at the door of the officials.

The Vikings got off to the worst possible start as Josh Charnley touched down in the corner inside 90 seconds, but Betts was furious that the officials failed to pick up what he felt was an obvious offside in the build-up.

Charnley received the ball on the right wing and sent a kick back infield and Betts was adamant Hampshire was in an offside position before he collected the ball and sent his winger over.

Widnes did hit back from that early blow to lead 10-4, but they could not keep the Warriors at bay and eventually fell to a 20-10 defeat.

Betts said: “We were close to being the better team. We scored the best tries and made some good line breaks, they scored a couple of scrappy tries and they definitely did not score the first try of the game I know that much.

“The referee and the linesman not seeing something as blatant as a player standing five yards offside — it would have been a completely different game on the back of that poor error at the start.”

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