LEEDS RHINOS are picking up the pieces after their third defeat of the season to Castleford Tigers. Here are five talking points following the big West Yorkshire derby.
1: Leeds should have won the energy battle, having had a relatively straightforward victory over Featherstone Rovers in their previous game and two days’ more rest than Tigers, who were backing up from an emotional defeat at Hull which was played in sapping heat.
But Rather than completing sets and applying pressure they came out too fired up, made a succession of errors early in the tackle count and conceded penalties on the fifth or sixth. It was the wrong approach and they were punished for it by a smart Cas side.
2: Leeds’ defence is in good shape. Tigers are the best attacking team in the competition, but – despite Leeds handing them plenty of possession and position – only Salford and St Helens (twice) have conceded fewer points to Cas this season. That at least gives Rhinos something to build on.
3: Cas are now seven points clear of second-placed Hull, who they face at the Jungle on Friday. Win that and they will be virtually guaranteed to finish top of the elite competition for the first time in their history. Rhinos slipped a place to fourth, but still have Hull (second) and Salford (third) to play so runners-up spot at the end of the regular season is a realistic target. Even so, the Challenge Cup is Leeds’ best hope of silverware this season. Cas are untested in really big games, but there’s no sign of Leeds being able to beat them. They have, however, defeated the other three Challenge Cup semi-finalists – Wigan, Hull and Salford – and a win at Wembley would make it a successful season.
4: When an 80-minute game takes more than two hours to complete something is wrong. Post-10pm finishes are no good for anybody and the sport either needs to introduce earlier kick-offs or find a way of speeding things up.
5: Both teams used 16 players. There was no need for Tigers to bring Tom Holmes off the bench, but Rhinos missed an opportunity to give Jack Walker valuable experience when Ash Handley suffered concussion in the second half.