LEEDS RHINOS got through their final game before Wembley injury-free, but angry coach Brian McDermott struggled to find anything else positive to say about yesterday’s 40-36 defeat at London Broncos.
It was London’s first win of the season, after 23 straight First Utility Super League defeats and one in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup and almost certainly ends their hopes of finishing top of the table.
McDermott left out nine players who had featured in the Challenge Cup semi-final win over Warrington Wolves eight days earlier.
Asked if Leeds had got through unscathed, McDermott said: “Unless there’s something I don’t know about yet, there are no new ones (injuries).”
The coach was adamant the defeat at London will have no bearing on his team selection or preparations for Saturday’s Cup final showpiece against Castleford Tigers.
And he insisted Leeds have not yet given up on top spot in the table – though the odds are now stacked against them.
Despite suffering back-to-back defeats to the two relegated sides, Rhinos remain third in Super League, but are four points behind table-toppers St Helens with only three rounds left.
“We will keep fighting, that’s what we’ll keep going for,” McDermott insisted of first place on the ladder.
“That’s the frustration. I’m sure there’s a sentiment out there that we’re not bothered about the league leaders’ shield because of the Challenge Cup.
“It’s absolutely not true. The team that faced Bradford was good enough to beat Bradford and for whatever reason, we didn’t. It was the same today. If we don’t get the league leaders’ because of this, it will be very disappointing.”
McDermott blamed “individual errors, blunders and frailties” for yesterday’s collapse.
He said: “There were some individual defensive errors, lapses and a lack of concentration – and some soft missed tackles.
“The team that took to the field was well in command of that game and looked very good for some spells and then went into periods when some individuals were soft.
“Some of our defensive lapses were alarming in the second half, from individuals.”
The Leeds boss had a previous spell in charge of the capital side and he added: “They didn’t need another invite into the game. They’ve had a long, hard season and for them to be 16 points down at one stage, I don’t think anybody would have been too critical if they had, not given up, but been a bit more conservative.
“But they kept at it. Credit them. They were always going to get a win this season.
“If that’s our ‘back-up team’ and London can beat our ‘back-up team’, then they are not far off. Everybody that’s come down here has been saying we don’t want to be the first ones to lose to them. We certainly had that mentality beforehand, during the first half and at half-time as well. We just didn’t have it in the second half. But credit London, hopefully they can notch up a couple more wins and take a bit of momentum into next season.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos under-19s had better fortunes, winning 29-28 at Underhill Stadium on Saturday. Try scorers for Leeds were Billy McDermott, Jack Norfolk, Robbie Ward, Nathan Barker and Jonny Holmes. Jordan Lilley kicked four goals and Joe Sanderson added a drop goal.