Leeds will be no match for Melbourne

Yes Leeds are reigning Super League champions, yes they have a 100 percent record so far in the league, but, the Rhinos have so far failed to deceive. An unconvincing opening round victory over Warrington was followed up by a narrow win over newly-promoted Hull KR - a side who were hammered 6-28 by Wakefield in round one.
In fact, most of the Leeds players appeared as though they were already on the plane to Australia in their clash against Hull KR - hardly the attitude to have the week before they face #NRL giants Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge. While Warrington and Hull KR are always difficult sides to overcome, Melbourne, on the other hand, are a different animal altogether.

Half-back issue

Though Richie Myler and Joel Moon linked up well in the Rhinos' victory over Warrington, the same could not be said of Myler and Liam Sutcliffe in the stuttering display against Hull KR. Sutcliffe, drafted into the halves as a replacement for the sidelined Moon, lacked composure and Leeds' organisation and structure suffered as a result. If Moon is not back in time for the clash in Melbourne then Leeds could be looking down the barrel of a gun.
Although Storm stalwart Cooper Cronk has moved on to pastures new - the Sydney Roosters to be exact - the NRL champions still have the impressive Cameron Munster at stand-off - though he has been plagued with off-field issues recently. And, partnering Munster will either be Canadian international Ryley Jacks or brilliant youngster Brodie Croft. A combination of either Munster and Jacks or Munster and Croft will be too hot for Leeds to handle and, if Storm fire on all cylinders, it could be an embarrassing day out for the Rhinos.

Slow out of the blocks

Against Hull KR, Leeds were seriously slow to get into the game. By the 21st minute, the Robins led 0-10. And, though Leeds replied with two quickfire tries to make it 10 apiece at the break, a Rovers drop-goal just three minutes into the second half, re-established the visitors' lead. In fact, it wasn't until 12 minutes before the end that the Rhinos led for the first time courtesy of Jimmy Keinhorst who wasn't even supposed to be playing.
Let's face it, if Leeds do not turn up from the first whistle against Melbourne, it will be a walk in the park for the NRL side. And that's putting it kindly.

Home advantage

Melbourne also has the joy of playing at home in Australia. The last time the World Club Challenge was played Down Under was in 2014 when the Wigan Warriors fell to a heavy 36-14 defeat against NRL champions Sydney Roosters.
And, the last time that the Rhinos were involved in the World Club Challenge was in 2016 when they succumbed to a 4-38 hammering by North Queensland Cowboys, and, this game wasn't even held in Australia, instead, Leeds' home ground, Headingley, was the venue.
Now, NRL sides have typically enjoyed superiority over Super League sides in the World Club Challenge- with last year's Series being the anomaly - even when games have been played in England and even though NRL sides fail to give the competition the respect it deserves. With home advantage at AAMI Park, Melbourne could well demonstrate just how wide the gap is between the two leagues. And, even though Leeds were triumphant in last year's Grand Final, they hardly lit up the Super League season.
The end result could be damaging for the British game; Leeds need to be on their game from minute one. But, even if they are, this game is surely only heading one way. It's up to Leeds to well and truly defy the odds.

Callum Walker

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