SKIPPER KEVIN Sinfield accepts Leeds Rhinos can’t afford any more slip-ups.
Rhinos have targeted the league leaders’ shield this year, but their hopes of topping the table are hanging in the balance after a poor mid-season run.
Leeds have won just one of five First Utility Super League games since going six points clear at the top of the table less than two months ago.
St Helens’ win over Salford last night knocked Rhinos off pole position and Sinfield admitted they have to start getting back among the points, beginning at bottom club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats tomorrow.
Wigan – who beat Rhinos 27-12 last week – are two points behind and Sinfield said: “It is tight all across the competition. We want to finish top, that is something we are really keen to do.
“We need to pick up some wins and the sooner the better.”
Rhinos will be hot favourites to do that tomorrow against a team who have lost their last 13 league games – but Sinfield insisted they are taking nothing for granted.
“It’s always tough at Wakefield and I think in many ways we need a response from how we played last week,” Sinfield said.
“Knowing what happened last year, when they beat us, we’ve got to go there and expect the best of Wakefield – and hopefully they’ll get the best of us as well.
“We’re looking forward to it, it’s an important two points, as they all are at this stage and we’ll go there and certainly give it our best shot.”
Rhinos won a Challenge Cup tie 60-6 at Belle Vue in April last year, but were beaten 16-14 there in the league three months later.
The Rhinos skipper described last year’s league defeat as a “warning”.
He said: “We are aware of how well they can play at home. We’re aware they will be revitalised by the arrival of (incoming coach) Brian Smith and they will want to impress.
“But we just need to show a response after last week. Normally after a loss the lads work really hard at putting things right.
“Hopefully we can do that this week. We will give Wakefield the respect they deserve, like we do everybody else, but there are things we need to fix up here first. We’ve been working on that this week and we’ll go there on the back of a good week in training and some good preparation.”
Sinfield is confident Rhinos are not far off finding their best form. He added: “We just need to get back to it.
“I thought we actually played some decent stuff against Wigan, but I don’t feel we asked them enough questions.
“The way we coughed up the ball, either from poor kicking or errors, just invited them to play against us.
“I still thought during the second half, when it was a two-point game, we had a good chance of getting back into it.
“We just needed to score, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case and we copped a loss.
“No excuses, we need to be better and I am sure we will be at Wakefield.”
Meanwhile, utility-forward Stuart Howarth could make his second debut for Wakefield tomorrow.
Howarth, 25, spent the 2011 season at Wakefield, before joining Salford.
He also had a spell on loan at St Helens in 2013 and moved to Hull for the start of this season, but joined Wakefield yesterday on an 18-month deal.
He has been named in Wildcats’ 19-man squad for tomorrow and said: “When I found there was an opportunity to come back to the club, I jumped at it.
“I was at Hull FC and only played (six) games. I was offered a lot more game time here and I want to play rugby, so it was the right decision for me to make.”
Wakefield chairman, Michael Carter said: “I am delighted to welcome Stuart back to the club. He had a successful stint here in 2011 and will bring some much-needed defensive attribute to our squad. He can cover a variety positions for us and will be a valuable member for the remainder of this season and next season.”