Our YEP Jury look back at the cup victory over Doncaster and ahead to tonight’s game against Huddersfield.
If I had been told earlier on in the year that at the halfway point of the season Leeds Rhinos would be firmly ensconced within the top four and, in fact, in second place, I would have shaken my head in disbelief.
A loss at the start, followed by a couple of shaky wins and the debacle at Castleford did nothing to bolster confidence in the team.
Thankfully, class told at the end. Under the leadership of Danny McGuire, the players began to gel together, on-field partnerships formed with new hooker Matt Parcell being hugely influential; his workrate is exceptional both in attack and defence. Young Ashton Golding seems to have settled well at full-back, growing in confidence week by week and not fazed by the big occasion.
The experiment of playing Joel Moon at stand-off has worked well, as he seems to enjoy the added freedom the position gives him. Whether this can continue depends on covering the centre position, which, until injury, was ably filled by Jimmy Keinhorst. Sadly this does expose the lack of cover available in the three-quarters.
Despite having to cope with two long suspensions, the forwards have, over the last six weeks, been quite dominant, which has led to more and more freedom for the backs to exploit. Both Mitch Garbutt and Adam Cuthbertson have, seemingly, regained previous form, and JJB is belying his years and setting an example to the younger players. The cup game against an enthusiastic Doncaster team went as expected.
Leeds always looked as if they could score at will and the game was over as a competition well before half-time. Huddersfield up next, always a difficult game, but Leeds should be able to get the points, provided they control possession. The rest of the season won’t be easy as any team can beat anyone else at the moment.
Warrington have regained some form after a dismal start, Wigan are getting their injured back and are always a threat, whilst Castleford, despite a couple of blips, are going strong.
It will, at the end of the day no doubt, come down to the team that avoids an injury crisis.
There was a mixed reaction to last Friday’s win over Doncaster due to a sloppy second half, but, for me, there were more positives than negatives.
Racking up another good points tally, progressing to the next round of the Cup and, of course, the impressive debuts of youngsters Jack Walker and Mikolaj Oledzki were all pleasing elements of a good night’s work.
However, for the second time in as many games, the display we saw after the half-time interval was far from satisfactory. Neither attack nor defence was up to scratch, which was understandable in a way under the circumstances, but it was not what the fans wanted to see and, unfortunately, took some of the gloss off of the result.
As a lot of Rhinos fans were frustrated with conceding 28 points, our next opponents, Huddersfield, conceded the same amount to Championship outfit Swinton and were consequently knocked out of the Challenge Cup, so things could be worse.
The Giants’ recent form does give me confidence for tonight, although I’m not expecting it to be easy; meetings with Huddersfield rarely are for Leeds. But, I do think this is a good time to be playing Rick Stone’s side and I would like to see us take advantage of their clear defensive frailties to claim a third straight league win.
the gamble to rest players backfired last weekend, so expect a backlash against Leeds in an ‘irksome’ Thursday-night fixture. South Stand ‘Panto Villain’ Danny Brough returns for the Giants, with a kicking game we historically have failed to nullify. Expect a desperate team to throw everything at Leeds.
For 40 minutes on Friday in the Challenge Cup encounter with Doncaster, all was going to plan and 40 points up against part-time opponents is where Leeds should be.
After all, Toronto put 80 points on Doncaster, so a full-time Super League club of Leeds’ stature should be able to match that scoreline, at the very least.
So, without making too much of a big deal of the second half, there is a little warning sign that we haven’t put in an 80-minute performance for a few weeks now. Similar to the Widnes game, we ‘let them back in’ in the second stanza.
So, for my mind, the focus for tonight’s game against Huddersfield has to be an 80-minute performance to go alongside the two competition points.
It was great to see Leeds securing a solid win in the Challenge Cup. With highlights including a hat-trick for young Jack Walker, the squad must be looking forward to tonight’s clash against a downtrodden Huddersfield. I hope they will put all that try-scoring practice to good use against the Giants!