LEEDS RHINOS coach Brian McDermott wants to see his players make fewer try-saving tackles.
Table-topping Rhinos have conceded only 94 points in 11 First Utility Super League fixtures ahead of tonight’s derby at third-placed Castleford Tigers.
No side has scored more than 14 points against Leeds this year, but that has largely been down to some stunning goal-line defence – and McDermott reckons his team are having to rely too much on last-ditch try-savers.
Rhinos are on the back of a 28-12 win over champions Wigan Warriors six days ago which lifted them back into pole position.
But McDermott warned they need to keep the opposition further away from their line tonight.
“I thought a few people got carried away after the game last week,” McDermott said. “You have got to put it into context.
“In terms of the number of missed tackles we made and the number of line-breaks we conceded, it was not the greatest performance we have had.
“There are some fears and concerns over what we are doing defensively. We don’t want to be making so many try-saving tackles – or at least not having to do so many.”
McDermott believes Rhinos will need to tighten up against a Tigers team who boast an in-form pack – led by props Craig Huby and Andy Lynch and back-rower Grant Millington – and a potent left-edge of winger Justin Carney and centre Michael Shenton. Tigers’ have scored more points than Rhinos this year – 362 to 354 – and McDermott expects them to come out all guns blazing, despite a short preparation.
Cas were beaten 29-28 at Huddersfield Giants just four days ago, but McDermott said: “I think they will get themselves up.
“We know what it will be like, it will be an intense game and they will show a huge amount of energy.
“I am sure they will be working on a massive start and we are expecting them to come out and put everything into the first 20 minutes.”
Last year’s Grand Finalists Wigan and Warrington Wolves have already been beaten at MAH Jungle this term, but McDermott insisted he isn’t shocked by Tigers’ superb start.
“There’s always a team in the top four, five or six who people don’t expect to be there,” he said.
“As a coach it is not my job to predict who’s going to be in the top-six, it is to make sure we are as high up there as possible.
“It is not a surprise to me, Daryl Powell is a good coach, he did some good things at Leeds and continued that at Featherstone and now at Castleford.
“They have a very aggressive recruitment policy, they brought in some good players and Daryl has got them playing well.
“If anything, it is a pleasant surprise. We need more teams in the competition doing what Castleford are doing.
“Players want to stay, Daryl has provided good stability around the place and it is pleasing to see for our competition.”
McDermott will select for tonight from the players who beat Wigan, plus Ben Jones-Bishop and Stevie Ward.
Ward has missed the last three games after injuring an ankle in Leeds’ Easter win at Bradford Bulls, but McDermott said: “He has a good chance.
“He had a good chance last week, but he was still a bit too sore.”