Five talking points from Leeds Rhinos’ win over Wigan Warriors

Kallum Watkins.
Kallum Watkins.
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WHAT A difference a month makes.

On March 2, Rhinos suffered a 66-10 defeat at Castleford Tigers which left the future of coach Brian McDermott and his players hanging in the balance.

Carl Ablett scores late on against Wigan.

Carl Ablett scores late on against Wigan.

They have bounced back by winning four successive games, including a 26-18 victory over Wigan Warriors last Friday and are playing their best rugby since the 2015 treble-winning campaign. Here are five talking points from Leeds’ latest success.

1: It is hard to believe Kallum Watkins was labeled injury-prone earlier in his career.

He has not missed a Rhinos game since September, 2015 and has played every moment of his 44 consecutive appearances. He had a stormer against Wigan – his 200th Rhinos game – and is starting to get more ball. When that happens he is a devastating strike weapon.

2: Captain Danny McGuire’s return to form and fitness is benefiting Watkins and Leeds’ attack generally.

Last Friday was McGuire’s 399th game for Leeds and he is set to become the 13th player to reach 400th for the club.

Ahead of him on the appearance chart are: John Holmes (625), Fred Webster (543), Kevin Sinfield (521), John Atkinson (518), David Ward (482), Alan Smith (479), Rob Burrow (475), Jim Brough (442), Les Dyl (434), Ray Batten (434), Evan Williams (415) and Neil Hague (411).

3: Four sin-binnings in as many games is a concern for Rhinos.

But they have conceded just one try while under-strength and the way they are defending with a man down is proof of the spirit and resolve in their ranks.

4: It has been a good few days for Rhinos, with the long-awaited stadium development moving a step closer. With a 17,000 crowd packed in Headingley was rocking on Friday night and it will be a challenge to reproduce that sort of atmosphere when the South Stand has been replaced.

5: Carl Ablett won’t be on Frank-Paul Nuuausala’s Christmas card list. The way Ablett got under the big prop’s skin in the second half - culminating in a knock-on near his own line late in the game - was a classic example of rugby league being played with mind as well as muscle.

Anthony Mullally

Leeds Rhinos: McDermott is philosophical after heavy Wigan defeat