HITTING THEIR attacking straps at last has given Leeds Rhinos a huge lift in their battle against relegation, veteran pack man Jamie Jones-Buchanan says.
Rhinos ran in 11 tries when they began their First Utility Qualifiers campaign with a 62-6 win at Featherstone Rovers.
The 44 points Leeds scored after the break was 10 more than their previous highest score this season and Jones-Buchanan reckons that is a good sign for the rest of their campaign.
“I think it was a massive confidence-booster,” he said. “There were some great tries, particularly from our outside-backs. When our forwards are working really hard in the middle and they get the ball out to the edges, Joel Moon and Kallum Watkins are the best in the country for me.
“It is really exciting seeing those guys with the ball in hand, flipping it out to Hally [Ryan Hall] and [Tom] Briscoe. Who’s going to stop those four?
“Kallum Watkins was on fire, back to his best and that’s really exciting for us.
“He was skipping round people and we will need people like Kallum full of confidence when we come up against teams like Hull KR, Salford, Huddersfield and Leigh and right through. We have got to perform well every week in the middle-eights, but a big start was important and we got that.”
Jones-Buchanan said Rhinos’ clinical performance reflected the way they approached the game. Rovers, whose players are part-time, are the lowest-ranked team in the Qualifiers, but the former England forward stressed Rhinos will treat each team they come up against with total respect.
“I think professional is the big word,” Jones-Buchanan said. “The lads prepared well all week. There was a lot of humility in our preparation, we knew how dangerous Featherstone could be and how big a game it was for them. There was a big support from Leeds and Featherstone and it was a good spectacle, but we had a big completion rate in the first half and that was really important, with us having to play up the slope in the second half. It all came to fruition and the lads enjoyed the second half.”
Another victory over Hull KR in two days’ time would be a giant step towards a Super League return next season.
Leeds need to be in the top-three after the seven Qualifiers fixtures to gain an automatic place in the top flight and avoid the lottery of the million pound match between the fourth- and fifth-placed sides.
“We want to finish off as well as we can,” Jones-Buchanan said. “It has been a tough year, but we have learned a lot of lessons as a group, particularly off the field.
“We want to finish strong, but Hull KR were very, very strong the last time we played them and we expect Friday to be the same.
“But we are getting there and Saturday’s performance was a great start. This year, for me, has been all about persistence, perseverance and resilience and I think the big fruits of that will show in the middle-eights.”
Meanwhile, forward Brett Delaney has confirmed he suffered a dislocated kneecap in the win at Featherstone, but said he is unsure how long he will be out of action.