LEEDS RHINOS will go into the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final battle-hardened, but with things still to work on, second-rower Carl Ablett reckons.
Rhinos, who face Hull KR at Wembley in four days’ time, are on a run of six straight wins, including three since their semi-final success against St Helens.
A below-strength team, with several players out of position, won 36-22 at Hull last Friday and Ablett felt that was an ideal last game before Saturday’s final.
“It was a decent game to be involved in,” Ablett said.
“When you’re going to play a big final you want to be involved in an intense game, where you have to fight for every point.
“We were a little bit scratchy in offense and defence, it was by no means perfect, but I think as preparation goes, it was a good workout.
“To play not to our best, but get the win, it’s a great sign and we can start looking forward now and hopefully having a good week’s build-up.”
Rhinos have a poor record in their final game before Wembley, but the win last weekend maintained their four point lead at the top of the First Utility Super-8s table and guaranteed them a place in the semi-finals with four rounds still to play.
Ablett said it was important to go into the final on the back of a win and having scored some impressive tries.
“The second half felt like they score, we score,” he said. “It was tit-for-tat and we couldn’t really put them away.
“They are a good team and in the first half I don’t think we were great offensively, though we scrambled a bit in defence.
“In the second half we were a bit better attack-wise and we scored some decent tries, we scored some long-range tries and played some off-the-cuff stuff.
“We were happy with the two points and we can look forward to the final with confidence.
“It was important to keep the run going and it’s important we keep picking up two points and knocking the games off.”
Meanwhile, Ablett paid tribute to team-mate Rob Burrow, whose brace against Hull took him to 200 career tries.
Ablett reckons Burrow, who could feature either at hooker or scrum-half, will be crucial to Rhinos’ Wembley chances.
“They’ve all been walk-ins, haven’t they?” joked the back-rower, who was also among the scorers last week.
“He has built his career on whenever there’s a break he always seems to be there, so it is an amazing record.
“To have so many players who’ve scored that many tries in the team is great for us.
“It shows what great players they are and great readers of the game. Whenever there’s a break, there’s usually Rob or Magsy (Danny McGuire) fighting over it. It’s a good record.”