RugbyL: Leeds kick off title defence with Hull rout

Reigning champions Leeds Rhinos kicked off the new Super League season with an emphatic 36-6 victory over Hull on Friday.

Hull failed to overcome the late withdrawal of newly-appointed captain Gareth Ellis and Leeds took full advantage to cruise to their 12th successive opening weekend win.

England forward Ellis is back in Super League after a four-year spell in Australia, but his return was delayed when he was ruled out after damaging an ankle in the warm-up.

Hull coach Peter Gentle was forced to re-shuffle his line-up, with Richard Whiting coming off the bench to take Ellis' second row spot.

But, inspired by long-serving half-backs Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow, Leeds wore down Hull to score five tries in the last 25 minutes and run out comfortable winners.

Leeds also lost one of their newcomers, Australian winger Joe Vickery, with an ankle injury but it could not take the gloss off a polished performance by the champions, for whom skipper Kevin Sinfield scored the points he needed to climb to eighth in the league's all-time list of scorers.

In Friday's other fixture Sam Tomkins scored a hat-trick of tries to inspire Wigan to a 42-0 win at Salford.

Warriors full-back Tomkins ran in three of his side's eight tries to puncture a party atmosphere at the Salford City Stadium sparked by the Reds' recent takeover.

Yet after coming perilously close to folding in the close season, the hosts will take heart from a spirited display, even if they looked some way short of the required standard.

Five-goal Pat Richards, Matty Smith, Josh Charnley, Iain Thornley and Liam Farrell also touched down for Wigan.