The Yorkshire Evening Post’s jury reckons Leeds Rhinos will have to be at near-full strength if they are to see off Hull and reach the final of this year’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
My attitude towards the clash with Wigan was a relaxed one from the moment I saw the 19-man squad.
The amount of academy players in the squad made it clear that we weren’t putting too much emphasis on the game, and, with second place tied up, there was no real meaning on it either.
As I said last week, a defeat could actually make our Super-8 fixtures slightly easier, so I wasn’t too bothered about losing as long as we weren’t humiliated.
As it turned out, a close to full-strength Warriors had too much for the third youngest side the Rhinos have fielded in the Super League era, and won with relative ease.
Looking at the two teams that was to be expected, but during the first half and early stages of the second as I watched a Wigan team struggle to pull away, I couldn’t help but feel that, with just a few more regular first-team players on the field, we could have made more of a game of it as, although they were comfortable, our opposition didn’t put in a performance to shout about.
The match was lost 34-0, which was a fair reflection on our attacking efforts, but probably not on the defence which I thought was good for the most part.
However, the experience and knowhow of the Wigan players saw their points tally rack up.
Hopefully the academy lads will have learnt from that experience and will become better players for it, which is one positive that can be taken away from last Friday.
Moving on, and the Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull FC is up next. With the first teamers now well rested, I am expecting a much better display than what we saw both last week and in the meeting with Hull two weeks ago.
And it will need to be if we are to knock out the current Cup holders and reach Wembley for a third time in four years. The Airlie Birds are due a victory over us, and, after the luck we got in the win over them at Headingley, I do feel we could have some ‘negative karma’ coming our way, but hopefully I’m wrong.
Whether last week’s call to rest most of stars was the right one or not going forward we will soon see, but personally I would have done the same thing.
The young lads who went out there on Friday wore the shirt with pride, put in a 100 per cent effort and really put their bodies on the line against a big Wigan outfit.
And in years to come the experience will have set them in good heart.
With Friday done and dusted it leads into a huge week. We should be rested and freshened up well ahead of the huge semi-final against Hull, who will be led by my mate Gaz Ellis.
I cannot wait for what has the potential to be a classic!
Whilst the attitude and commitment of the young Leeds players last Friday against Wigan couldn’t be faulted, it was soon apparent the lack of experience would be too much of a mountain to climb.
The biggest game of the season next. It will be a tight game, but Leeds should win.
There’s a lot of discussion about last week’s game and the decision to play a generally younger squad. On the whole the team showed promise but just weren’t able to capitalise and achieve adding points to the scoreboard.
The idea of course is to save players for this week’s Challenge Cup game against Hull FC. It’s not a new strategy to the game before a big match but it puts those that do play under pressure.
I look forward to seeing this week’s line up with, hopefully, a more experienced team playing. It’s a big semi-final and the chance to knock out last year’s cup winners.
Hull are not going to go down easily; Leeds need to step up and maximise the chances they create if they have a shot of winning.
Friday’s ‘dead rubber’ at Wigan was negotiated by a Leeds side so young it would have tested child labour regulations. Cue the ‘Miracle of Headingley’ as half the squad makes the biggest comeback since Lazarus. Ignore the formbook as anything can happen – against Hull – and probably will.
Good luck Loiners, you may need it!
I might be in the minority with this, but I’m furious about last Friday’s game.
I attend lots of away games but decided when I saw the squad on Wednesday I wouldn’t be making the trip across the M62 on a Friday night.
When I saw the 17 on Friday I was flabbergasted.
For me, Brian McDermott threw the game and this is totally unacceptable.
Going to Wigan Warriors with that team was an insult to the shirt, the fans and the players, in my eyes. If the justification was to ensure they were fresh and ready for the Challenge Cup semi-final, then this weekend’s tie against Hull FC is a must-win ...
... Or else the coach should be made to justify his decision to the fans and players.