STAND-IN CAPTAIN Zak Hardaker is confident Leeds Rhinos’ shock defeat at London Broncos won’t damage team confidence ahead of Saturday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
Rhinos will face Castleford Tigers at Wembley just six days after becoming the first side to lose to First Utility Super League’s bottom club this season.
Rhinos led 30-8 in the second half and were 36-14 ahead with 25 minutes left, but a stunning collapse allowed London – who had lost all their previous 24 competitive games in 2014 – to run in 26 unanswered points.
Rhinos were without nine members of their likely Wembley side and Hardaker captained the team in the absence of Kevin Sinfield.
Assessing the mood following the defeat two days ago, Hardaker said: “In the first half we put a real good performance in.
“But we just let ourselves down in the second half. Defensively, we were shocking, if I am honest, but that game’s over and done with now.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted at all, but it’s Wembley this week and you can’t get much bigger than that.
“We’ll try and forget about Sunday’s game, this is a new week and a fresh start and we are looking ahead to Cas.
“It hasn’t affected our confidence at all, but the lads are disappointed. I think that might be good fuel for them to try and impress next week.”
Hardaker added: “Even though we’ve lost it might be a bit of a good thing, to try and rectify things this week.”
Leeds have not suffered back-to-back defeats this season and Hardaker said there will be a positive response.
“It is one of the strengths we’ve got in our team,” he said.
“We were missing a number of players, but that’s no excuse. We had a good enough team out there.
“We showed in patches why we are where we are in the league and why we are at Wembley.
“The performance at the start was brilliant, but unfortunately the team performance let us down in the second half.
“But we will brush that off and crack on with Wembley.”
Rhinos’ hopes of finishing top of Super League seem over, but Hardaker said the aim now is to win every game until the end of the season.
“We have got three more tough fixtures in the league,” he said. “Before the weekend we were saying if we won at London and then beat Saints, Wigan and Hull we would finish top.
“We still want to win those games, as well as Wembley, so we can be in good form going into the play-offs.
“We are looking to not lose another game now and to hopefully get to Old Trafford and win that as well.
“There could be another six or seven games yet and we want to focus on winning every single one.”