Flawless Rhinos cement place at the top of the standings
Rhinos cemented their position at the top of the World Tens League after concluding the first round of matches by maintaining a perfect record in thrilling fashion.
After the opening day of matches in the inaugural World Tens Series on Saturday, action returned amid wet and wild conditions at North Field with a further six games, culminating in the mouthwatering match-up between the competition’s top two. The fixture more than lived up to its blockbuster billing.
Having secured a hard-fought 7-5 victory against Miami Sun to kick off proceedings, Rhinos wrapped up the day against London Royals, a match-up pitting the only two teams to have won their first four fixtures, with Royals brushing aside Phoenix 44-0 earlier in the day.
It was Royals who looked most likely to extend their flawless form, leading 6-0 at half-time courtesy of Ross Neal’s converted try. But Rhinos to hit back with a try of their own in the dying seconds, with Cyrille Cama’s pivotal “jeopardy” two-point conversion snatching a 7-6 victory.
“It couldn't have been scripted any better if the organisers had tried, it really couldn't,” said Ryno Combrinck, Rhinos head coach, whose side’s dramatic victory enables them to take a one-point advantage over Royals at the top of the standings heading into the second round next week.
"I think that one game summed up what this format is all about and what an advert for the World Tens Series.
"We're delighted to get the win. It's great to be undefeated but I'm more pleased and focused on how quickly this team has come together."
“However, there is still a lot of work and adapting to do, but it makes for an exciting second round next weekend.”
Meanwhile, former England full back Ben Foden, was left to rue what he believed to be a number of dubious decisions, including the overruling of a second Royals try on review.
“We’re all a bit disappointed because obviously we wanted to keep that winning momentum going and help try and claim that top seeding for the World Tens Series Cup [knockout play-off format taking place on November 7], ” said Foden, who was capped 34 times by England.
“I’m also disappointed as I feel there was a number of dubious decisions that didn’t go our way, including that disallowed try.
“Fair play to the Rhinos boys, though, because they put a big shift in, deserved it and you could see what it meant to their squad.
“With the way the tournament is structured we know that it is all still to play for in the second round of matches.
“We knew this first week with would a learning curve for all of us to get to grips with the format of Tens. We’ll learn from the defeat, pick ourselves up in the coming week and come back ready for next week.”
Meanwhile, Miami, Asia Pacific Dragons and Ohio Aviators each recorded their second victories of the tournament, with Miami bouncing back from their narrow defeat by Rhinos to thrillingly overcome Ohio 11-10.
Aviators prevailed in another close-fought encounter, beating Asia Pacific by the same scoreline, with the latter responding in spectacular fashion with an emphatic 44-0 win over an under-strength Phoenix in the penultimate match of the day.
“It was nice to finish the day with a good victory, especially after the close defeat against Rhinos,” said Miami head coach Russell Earnshaw, who won the European Cup during his playing days at Bath and was formerly assistant coach to the England sevens team.
“However, for me, I was never overly concerned with this first week because it was more a case of the squad getting to know one another and continue to adapt to this format.
“We also haven’t seen the SX10 team yet, who are due back next round and Phoenix will have their full squad back, so I don’t think we have seen what everyone has to offer.
“That’s not saying this weekend has been a false dawn as such, but I think there is plenty more to come as teams continue to develop throughout the tournament.”
Next week will see the conclusion of the World Tens League in the second of two series tournaments. The team with most points after the completion of next week’s matches will be seeded as No 1 and receive a bye through to the semi-finals of the World Tens Series Cup, a knockout play-off format taking place on November 7.
Rhinos 7 Miami Sun 5
Ohio Aviators 11 Asia Pacific Dragons 10
London Royals 44 Phoenix 0
Miami Sun 11 Ohio Aviators 10
Phoenix 0 Asia Pacific Dragons 44
Rhinos 7 London Royals 6