SUPER LEAGUE champions Leeds Rhinos will go into the Qualifiers on a run of five wins in their last six games.
That lifted them off the bottom into ninth spot at the end of the regular season and secured four home games in the Qualifiers.
Here are five talking points from Leeds’ latest success.
1: Rhinos have learned to tough out tight games, even when not playing particularly well. That was something which eluded them earlier in the year, when they lost several matches on goal kicks. The tries have been shared in Leeds’ last two matches, but they won them both.
2: The return of Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe has given Rhinos a new dimension, or regained an old one. The wingers were outstanding under Hull KR’s challenging kicking game and their strong runs away from Leeds’ line took pressure off the forwards.
3: Leeds’ 24-point tally at KC Lightstream Stadium took them to exactly 20,000 in Super League, according to amateur statistician Andrew Dalton. Rhinos still finished the regular season as the division’s lowest scorers, averaging just 17.5 per game. But their defence has improved and three teams conceded more than Rhinos, though their points difference was an abject minus 172.
4: One of the reasons for Leeds’ poor points tally is their lack of last-tackle options. That has been an Achilles heel all season. They may get away with it against Championship opposition, but it is something which must improve if they are to make an impact next year. Once again, it comes down to the need for a pivot with a strong kicking game.
5: Rhinos’ opening fixture in the Qualifiers will be the first time they have played outside the top level of the British game since the 1902-03 season when they were in the Northern Rugby League Second Division. However, the victory at Hull KR preserved their record of never having finished bottom of the table, which is some small consolation at the end of a hugely disappointing campaign. The target now is avoid what would be the first relegation in the club’s history – their previous stint outside the top-flight being as a result of a league reorganisation.