The YEP jury have their say ahead of Leeds Rhinos clash with Huddersfield Giants.
Recently I heard Wayne Bennett, the legendary Australian coach, say: “the game starts at number 9.”
I agree. Brian McDermott, however, over his three years at Leeds, appeared not to. He inherited one of the finest 9’s in the game in Danny Buderus, yet it could be argued he under-utilised him and he has had Paul McShane, Liam Hood, Shaun Lunt on loan and has converted half-back Rob Burrow into a hooker.
This vital position has never been settled and this has disrupted the flow of the team and held back the potential of the outside-backs. This season, however, McDermott has got his man.
He has signed his first permanent hooker in Paul Aiton and his impact on the team and style of play has been immediate. We simply look a better side with an organised, direct, passing hooker in the team and now we have the type of player who lays a platform for the direct, damaging running of Burrow.
In both the Hull KR and Warrington games the coach started with Burrow and brought Aiton on, I felt we could be more effective with these roles reversed and my wish was granted at Catalan Dragons. It was undoubtedly another impressive performance away in France, but what was most pleasing for me was that the likes of Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon are now seeing so much more of the ball than they have in previous seasons. As a result our devastating backs are scoring more points. Tom Briscoe as a case in point has already scored five tries in three games and Ryan Hall ended his mini try drought, which dated back to the end of last season when we played without a specialist hooker.
My hope going forward for the rest of the season is that we continue to start with Aiton moving the team around getting the ball out wide and then bring Burrow on to run at tired defences and cause his special kind of havoc.
Looking forward to this week, we take on Huddersfield. Last season, despite many predicting their bubble would burst, the Giants finished the season top of the pile, yet were unable to progress to Old Trafford. We have, in recent years, witnessed some dreadful performances at Huddersfield. But my new sense of optimism means I’ll travel with hope and expectation.
There have been some fantastic individual performances so far this season and if the likes of Zak Hardaker, Jamie Peacock, Ryan Bailey, Kevin Sinfield and the aforementioned Aiton, Burrow, Watkins, Moon and Briscoe keep up these standards I’ll look forward to our fourth win in four games.
Leeds Rhinos made it three wins out of three last Friday against a struggling Catalan side who were missing several of their first-team squad either through injury or suspension.
It was the Dragons who started the brighter though, managing to get the ball back from their own kick-off after Tom Briscoe had misread the situation.
Catalan enjoyed much of the early possession and it was they who scored the first try of the night, catching Leeds cold at the scrum.
The try seemed to spark Leeds into life and after 20 minutes it was the Rhinos who started to take a hold of the game.
Three tries in seven minutes seemed to take the heart out of the Catalan side who just could not live with the speed and skill of the Rhinos, especially the three-quarter line which again showed just how dangerous they can be with ball in hand.
The second half started pretty much the same way the first half ended with Leeds having all of the possession.
Two tries in a matter of minutes from Carl Ablett and Ryan Hall effectively put the game to bed before further tries from captain Kevin Sinfield and a second late on for Ryan Hall ensured Leeds remain unbeaten.
Tomorrow’s game against the Huddersfield Giants will prove a much sterner test than the French did, but Leeds should have enough to make it four wins on the bounce.
Last week Leeds beat Catalan Dragons and Huddersfield Giants lost to Widnes Vikings.
That should make for an interesting encounter at the John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow. Let’s hope that we’ve worked out how to beat the Giants this season and can stay unbeaten and continue our great start.
We had a superb win over Catalan last Friday. Kallum Watkins looks phenomenal with ball in hand and is forming a magnificent partnership with Tom Briscoe.
Paul Aiton starting brought a different side to our game, with Rob Burrow coming on and hurting a tired Catalan side. I was very happy with the convincing win as Catalan is usually a very hard place to go, but they are struggling to hit form at the minute.
Tomorrow will be a tough test for our squad versus Huddersfield, but will show how far we have come on since last season as they have become our bogey side in recent years.
Hopefully the guys can carry on this superb form and bring the points home.
Fly in, get the points and get out. It was job done and done in style. This week we go to the Giants who have had the ‘wood’ on us for a few seasons now.
I sense the players see this as another test of our progress. I’m looking forward to seeing how we go. Keep Brough quiet, win the forward battle and let the backs to do their stuff.
Wow what a performance on Friday night. The last time we won three in a row we topped the league in 2009. Will history repeat itself?
It was great to see one half of the Bash Brothers on the try sheet and what more is there to say about Captain Fantastic?
It was a super team effort and we are getting better every week. It’s another away match tomorrow, but much easier to get to and if I am honest I will go with a bit of a niggle in my stomach. Last year we were out-played in games against the Giants and in the cup match Danny Brough was given the space and time to kick us to death.
It’s not very often Sir Kev is out-kicked in a match. It should be a belting Yorkshire derby.