TONIGHT’S MAGIC Weekend clash with Wigan Warriors could be decided tactically, Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott reckons.
Rhinos beat Wigan 28-12 at Headingley Carnegie just 15 days ago and McDermott feels the side who learned the most from that game – and can adapt their own style – will grab the spoils.
“It will be an interesting one,” McDermott said of the blockbuster showdown, which closes day one of the Magic festival at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
“It will be interesting to see tactically how both teams go about it after playing each other the other week.
“You have to adapt. I don’t think you change too many things dramatically mid-season, we don’t anyway.
“But there will be some adapting of what we did last time, we might slightly change a runner here or there or certainly defensively. There’s just little things you adapt and I think it will come down to that. There will be some little progressions in each other’s games to try and get the opposition.
“That’s what you try and do most weeks, but then you are only going on video footage.
“But we just played each other two weeks ago and we’ve got some good memories of each other so I am sure that will have a bearing.”
Leeds out-scored Wigan five tries to two earlier this month, including one for Ryan Hall who returns today, but according to McDermott there was less between the teams than the scoreline suggests.
“What you can guarantee is it will be an intense game,” he predicted. “The scoreboard ticked over our way in the last game, but I didn’t think we had a massive advantage over them. I didn’t think we dominated them.
“In terms of how physical it was and the efforts that were needed, they were huge. The players were very tired afterwards and I am sure it will be similar again.”
Wigan have some injury concerns and will again be without skipper Sean O’Loughlin, but McDermott stressed: “Whatever team they put out will be good enough. They had a lot of first team regulars out against Hull last week, but they had a good win there.
“We played them a couple of years ago when they were without eight regular first teamers and they beat us 50-8 at home.
“We are expecting a good Wigan team, whoever’s on the team sheet.”
Wigan pipped Leeds 20-16 at last year’s Magic Weekend, to inflict Rhinos’ only defeat in seven stagings of the annual event.
All seven First Utility Super League round 13 matches will be played at the Etihad, with four today and another three tomorrow.
“I like the concept,” McDermott said. “No other sport does it and we’re getting better at staging it.
“It runs smoothly now and it has that cup final or semi-final element of everybody at the big stadiums.
“Everybody normally raises their game. With the Hull derby, us and Wigan and Warrington-Saints, there will be some competitive games.
“I look forward to it. We don’t change anything practically, but we do know we are going to be on show in front of all the other fans and on live television and we will be the showpiece for Saturday.
“The players are aware of that and they will raise their game for that.”
Meanwhile, stand-off Morgan Smith scored a hat-trick of tries and kicked eight goals for Rhinos under-16s in a 56-12 win at Castleford Tigers.
Judah Mazive and Dyson Nicholson crossed twice and other try scorers were Harry Boyes, Alex Young and Josh Jordan Roberts.
Russ Barton and Charlie Hanson scored Tigers’ tries and Tom Schofield and Riess Butterworth each kicked a goal.