TONIGHT’S VISIT of Huddersfield Giants will provide Leeds Rhinos with their toughest challenge of the First Utility Super League season so far, according to veteran prop Jamie Peacock.
Rhinos will go into the game as the form team, having won their opening two First Utility Super League matches, but Giants have held the upper hand in recent encounters and Peacock said it’s a massive hurdle the hosts have to get over.
The Challenge Cup holders came from behind to triumph 40-30 at Hull KR in round one and then blitzed Widnes Vikings with a late flurry of points en-route to a 38-6 victory 13 days ago – performances Peacock described as “okay”.
Said the former England captain: “We’ve only conceded two tries in a game and a half, after the first half at Hull KR.
“We are going all right defensively, but I think we will have to step up again against Huddersfield.
“They will be the toughest test so far, without a doubt.
“They are a top-four side, they are openly ambitious and they are a side we can’t beat at the moment. That’s something we are looking to rectify this week.”
Giants have become Rhinos’ bogey side over the last five seasons.
Up to 2010 Leeds had won 22 of the 23 Super League meetings between the clubs, but of the last 11 league and play-offs encounters, Giants have come out on top in seven, Rhinos have won only three and there was a draw at John Smith’s Stadium last March.
Including a Challenge Cup tie in 2013, Giants are on a seven-match unbeaten run against Rhinos and the last time Leeds beat tonight’s opponents at Headingley was a 21-20 success in July, 2010.
“They are a good side, I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve not beaten them,” Peacock said.
“They are well-coached and they’ve got some great players, but we’re looking to shift the momentum of the games and put ourselves in that win category.”
The front-rower admitted recent form against Giants has been a topic of conversation among Rhinos’ players this week.
“You’ve got to talk about past history between sides and where it sits with you,” he said.
“We like to be a side that can beat all the top sides and they’re one we’ve not beaten at the moment.”
Giants have been comfortable winners in most of the recent encounters, though there were only two points in it at Headingley Carnegie last season, when Tom Briscoe had a touchdown controversially ruled out by the video referee after the final hooter.
“We have played against a good side and we’ve not performed as we’d have liked,” Peacock admitted.
“If we can change that, we can get the result.
“We can only control what’s in our hands and that’s our performance. We will be looking to perform as well as possible.”
Giants are still searching for their first points of the campaign after being were crushed 19-0 by visitors Hull in their opening match and going down 24-16 at Wigan Warriors in round two.
“I thought they performed well against Wigan,” Peacock reflected.
“I thought Wigan came off the back of a poor performance against Widnes and raised their game and so did Huddersfield.
“They put themselves in the right place to win the game, but just didn’t go on and do that.
“I think they will take a lot of positives out of that performance.”
Peacock has played in both Rhinos’ opening matches and described his form as “okay”.
He added: “I am trying to peak at the right end of the year this year and I’m enjoying my last season.
“It’s where I want it to be at the moment.”
Prop Andy Yates made his Super League debut off the bench against Widnes, though he is not in the squad for tonight and another young front-rower, Brad Singleton, has had lengthy game time so far.
With Rhinos likely to need replacements for both their first-choice front-rowers this year, Peacock reckons Singleton and Yates have a massive opportunity ahead of them.
“They’ve trained really hard during the off-season and this is their season,” Peacock said of Leeds’ up-and-coming props.
“They need to make their mark, with myself and Kylie (Leuluai) retiring.
“Whether Kylie does decide to retire is another story in itself, but I’m definitely not going to be here next year, so one of them needs to take that position.
“What an opportunity for a younger player. It’s great to be involved in their development as a player and their progression.
“Progression for one of those two is to become a frontline front-rower at this club and I’d definitely like to see it (replacement props) happen internally.”
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, Ward, Jones-Buchanan, Singleton, Sutcliffe, Achurch, Burrow, Leuluai, Walters.
Huddersfield Giants from: Connor, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Ellis, Huby, Lunt, Mullally, Ferres, Hughes, Ta’ai, Wood, Crabtree, Kopczak, Lawrence, Bailey, Broughton.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.