GOAL LINE defence is what has impressed Warrington Wolves boss Tony Smith the most about Leeds Rhinos this season.
Smith, who was in charge of Rhinos from 2004-2007, reckons Rhinos are “deservedly” top of First Utility Super League going into tonight’s round 15 showdown with his team at at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“They have got some terrific attacking players,” observed Smith. Their backline is littered with internationals and they have some decent forwards as well.
“They have a wealth of experience, skill and attacking ability, but I have got to say their goal line defence has been the best of anybody in the competition.
“That has kept them in games and won them games.
“It was a big deciding factor last time we played them – their ability to defend set after set. They are the undisputed best goal line defence and scrambling defence team at the moment – and deservedly so, at the moment.”
That resilience is likely to be tested tonight away to a Warrington team who are hunting a fourth straight win after a slow start to the season.
“We are going through a bit of a transition this year,” Smith said. “We have got different combinations and some of those are coming together and we have improved some of our defensive efforts as well.
“When your defence is not firing it puts a lot of pressure on your attack to score points.
“If you are leaking too many it doesn’t help your confidence, team morale or self-esteem.
“As that has improved it has helped us put in some more consistent performances.
“I would like to think we are improving and some of those hard days and some of those not so good results have probably helped to toughen us up and made us a bit more determined to use those games to our advantage.”
Warrington will go into tonight’s game without England forward Ben Westwood, who is beginning a three-match ban for a dangerous throw in last Sunday’s victory at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Smith said he has “no qualms about Ben being dealt with” but admitted he was mystified why similar offences have not been referred to the disciplinary committee at times this year.
“All we ask for is consistency,” said Smith, who admitted Westwood is a big loss. “We will miss him, but that’s the way it is.
“Rather than talk about what we are missing we will concentrate on what we have got.
Smith added: “It is a great opportunity for some of our younger boys to step up and play against currently the best team in the competition.”