The YEP jury make their predictions ahead of Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos.
So for Leeds Rhinos the table is set, a sixth-placed finish but the distraction of Wembley and some pretty poor performances against teams we should be beating has handed us our toughest end-of-season challenge to date.
In my opinion Leeds’ two Grand Final wins from fifth did the regular season no favours. That’s not an excuse for Leeds’ poor showing but I think all teams, not just Leeds, are seeing the race for top as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’.
As the saying goes in business: “You tell me how I’ll be measured and I’ll tell how I’ll manage.”
League standings are simply not as important as they were four or five years ago. Why should they be? The prize is almost ridiculed and the incentive from a play-off point of view has not worked out well for most teams in the recent past.
Many fans still crave for their team to be constantly brilliant throughout the year, finish top and win the Grand Final. I can understand that but unfortunately that’s not how teams are measured.
I would suggest it’s must less stressful on the team to rotate and jostle for position than expend energy reaching a target no one really aspires to and then be fatigued come play-off time.
The new format next year may well change the dynamics again, but we shall see.
The league campaign is about practising for the play-offs, trying to stay as injury-free as you can and building consistency in key areas regardless of results.
At least Leeds can go into the play-offs knowing they’re defensive shape and attitude has been very consistent this year.
Our attack less so, but strong defence is paramount come playoff time.
I am disappointed with where we sit but I have no doubt so are the players.
As I have stated though, the rules of the game are not about where you sit after 27 rounds. Whether you like it or not Wigan and Leeds have smashed the myth of a top-two finish being a must.
Last week we looked a little tired as if Wembley had caught up with us.
If you remember last year, it happened to Wigan who lost against Hull and us prior to the play-offs.
We need to recharge the body and the mind and be ready to blast out of the blocks come play-off time.
The double is still alive but we have made it hard for ourselves.
It seems to be the Leeds way. Don’t write off this special group just yet!
I know that the referees are sponsored by Specsavers, but Ben Thaler gave them plenty of advertising last Friday night.
How was he missing the high shots and the holding down that Wigan were getting away with?
The punch that Zak Hardaker took in the face was at least worthy of a yellow and possibly a red card in my opinion and yet it was missed by all the officials. I suggest a trip to their sponsors is in order.
Saying that we were also our own worst enemies. Handling errors that we made were such a disappointment from our usual high standards that we set for ourselves and the kicking on the last was some of the worst we have done in many a season.
We looked out-played and – yet again – out-coached during big parts of the game.
And we looked lost without McGuire directing the plays, and the players.
Sir Kev is our leader but Mags is most definitely our general on the field.
He is the one that organises all the plays and where the players need to be for every play, and was a massive loss on Friday.
Paul Aiton’s defence is an asset but yet again he fails at hooker, too many bad passes from the ruck still for me. Hurry back Rob Burrow.
The pathetic pantomime booing of Zak from a team that’s had Gareth Hock in their side was a bit ironic!
The game against Wigan last Friday was a big ask after the previous two weeks’ exertions.
It was always going to tell at some stage. The Rhinos now know they will finish in sixth and can plan for the play-offs accordingly.
It will be good to see an improved performance against Hull FC tomorrow.
The Rhinos made it four defeats from four in Super League after last Friday night’s poor display against current champions Wigan and ended any hopes they had of a top-four finish.
If Leeds are going to have any chances of reaching Old Trafford this year then they are going to have to do it the hard way – no second chances, no second bites of the cherry.
Lose and that’s it for another year.
Leeds are the only side to win it from outside the top four and by no means would I write them off.
But if the Rhinos are to challenge for the big prize at Old Trafford then it is going to take a massive improvement in performance.
Winning the Challenge Cup has definitely come at a risk to our league position, as a sixth-place finish is destined.
This is very disappointing considering the superb start we had at the beginning of the season. Hopefully we can crack on when the play-offs start and claim what would be a memorable double.
Following Leeds’ fourth league defeat in a row and victories for Huddersfield and Castleford, the Rhinos’ final league position for 2014 has been confirmed as sixth.
Prior to Brian McDermott’s arrival, Leeds had not finished outside the top five since the first summer season in 1996.
Not only does he now have a sixth place to add to his two fifth-place finishes, but the most disappointing thing is that with Leeds’ much heralded back line, exciting rugby was meant to follow.
Yet McDermott hasn’t utilised that talent.
The fact Leeds lie sixth in the table but have the best defensive record in Super League, says more about McDermott’s playing style than I ever can.