LEEDS RHINOS’ second win of the season over Hull will have no bearing the next time the teams meet, with a place at Wembley up for grabs.
That’s the view of forward Adam Cuthbertson in the wake of Rhinos’ against-the-odds 10-7 victory three days ago.
Rhinos lost Stevie Ward and Keith Galloway to injury inside the opening quarter and were 7-0 down at half-time, but hit back with two second-half tries to secure second spot at the end of the regular Betfred Super League campaign.
It was Leeds’ eighth successive victory over Hull, but the black and whites will get a quick opportunity for revenge when the teams meet again in a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final at Doncaster on Saturday, July 29.
Both sides defended strongly in last Friday’s game, but Hull put themselves under pressure with a series of handling errors and Cuthbertson reckons they will be better next time.
“Semi-finals are a different ball game,” Cuthbertson said. “Teams turn up a bit differently in those sorts of games.
“I am sure they will do their homework and be a better team for it.”
Hull were without their most influential player, Albert Kelly, due to a calf injury. He is expected to be available for the Cup tie and Cuthbertson added: “He is quite dominant in their set-ups and their offence.
“They miss him when he’s not there and they will be stronger again when they get him back.”
Despite his caution, Cuthbertson admitted Leeds have taken confidence from their battling performance.
“It wasn’t pretty,” he reflected. It was a very tough effort from the boys and we were resilient in that second half.
“We managed the game well I think, especially the halves and Wakka [Jack Walker] when he came on to the field and we stuck in there and stuck at it. We got a few repeat sets which sort of ground them out of the game, which was good.”
The manner of the victory against Hull was in contrast to the 50-24 win at Salford Red Devils five days earlier, when Leeds produced their best attacking display of the year. Cuthbertson said: “It was a different sort of win, it wasn’t like the ones we’re used to. It was a bit more like a semi-final win, a tight match going right to the end and us winning by only three points, when they had a lot of ball as well. It gives you a lot of confidence when you win games like that.”
Rhinos are now four points clear of third-placed Salford and Wakefield Trinity, who are up to fourth, with one game to play before the Super-8s. It has been a dramatic turnaround from a year ago, when Leeds finished ninth and were forced to fight for Super League survival in the middle-eights Qualifiers.
“It was all about building again this year and learning lessons from last year and developing as a team with the juniors coming through,” Cuthbertson said. “The likes of Jordan Lilley and Anthony Mullally went through that tough period with us last year and now we seem to be building gradually and, hopefully at the right time, we just seem to be creeping up with some momentum.”
Some of the pressure is off, but Cuthbertson insisted Leeds need to maintain their recent good run when they visit Wigan Warriors in four days’ time.
“We just want to keep getting points on the table,” he said. “The semi-final is going to be a tense game and then we go into the eights; we still want to build through this regular season and climb the table as high as we can, to give us a buffer.”
They will have to do that without Galloway who suffered a ruptured Achilles – ending his season – just 12 minutes into the game against Hull. He suffered a similar injury – to his other leg – in the penultimate match of last year and only returned in April.
“He is a big part of our team,” Cuthbertson said. “Not just as a player, but one of our mates.
“It is heartbreaking for him and for our team because he is a big part of us.”