LEEDS RHINOS need to right some wrongs when they face Huddersfield Giants in the sixth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tomorrow.
That’s the view of full-back Zak Hardaker, who believes Leeds are capable of going all the way in the competition again this year, but only if they up their game.
Rhinos will go into tomorrow’s tie on a run of three matches without a win, having drawn at Huddersfield two weeks ago, either side of defeats to Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.
“We tend not to get easy draws and it’s going to be a tough one this week,” Hardaker said. “We’ve got to pick ourselves up, because we’re not really in form.
“That’s something we need to get right and address. We’ve looked at the game against Widnes and we were pretty poor, to be fair.
“That’s not like us, so we need to put our wrongs right this week.”
Huddersfield aren’t the opposition Leeds would have chosen at a time when they are playing well below their best.
Rhinos are unbeaten in their two games against Giants this season – after a home win in February and the draw last month – but have come out on top just once in the past nine meetings between the teams.
“They always seem to play well against us, but every team seems to raise their game against Leeds,” Hardaker observed.
“Huddersfield are a really good team.
“They’ve got a brilliant pack and behind that they’ve got brilliant halves and brilliant finishers as well.
“I watched their game against Salford last week and Danny Brough was instrumental in that win. The forwards lay the platform and Danny Brough can have a field day off the back of it.
“We know they can cause us problems, because we played them two weeks ago, but we know what to do in our game to get it right. I think if we play a nine out of 10 or 10 out of 10 game we’ll win it.
“We just need to turn up on the day and do it. Our form for the last few weeks hasn’t been up to scratch, but we’ll have to put that to bed and get on with it.”
It could be a long afternoon for Hardaker and Rhinos’ wingers if Brough gets his kicking game in order.
“I always expect bombs anyway,” Hardaker said.
“I get them all the time and luckily that’s one of my strongest points, catching the ball.
“I’m not too worried about that, to be fair, but Brough’s probably got the best kicking game in the league at the moment.
“It’s definitely something I’ll look out for, but across the board we all need to pick up our individual performances. If we can do that the team will do well and we’ll come away with a win.”
Despite the side not hitting their straps, Hardaker said he’s reasonably pleased with his own form.
“Early in the season I was a bit scratchy in some places,” he said.
“But I had a sit down with Mac [coach Brian McDermott] and we went over my game.
“It was pretty good to do that and it has set me up for the rest of the season.
“I’ve had some good performances the last couple of weeks and I have been enjoying it.
“If you play with a smile on your face it definitely shows.
“It is a lot better when the team’s playing well.
Most weeks we’ve been doing that, just lately we’ve dropped down a peg or two so we need to up our game a little bit.”
Hardaker was a member of the Rhinos team which beat Castleford Tigers in last year’s final, but he stressed: “We want to win it again – as well as the Grand Final and the league leaders’.
“We’re a very hungry bunch, we’re a bit greedy, we want to win everything.
“It was brilliant to do it last year, but now we want to retain the tile and win the other trophies as well.”
Leeds Rhinos: from Hardaker, Handley, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sutcliffe, McGuire, Cuthbertson, Burrow, Singleton, S Ward, Ablett, Delaney, Aiton, Peacock, Achurch, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield, Leuluai.
Huddersfield Giants: from Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Connor, Murphy, Brough, Ellis, Crabtree, Wood, Huby, Hughes, Wardle, Ta’ai, Lawrence, Kopczak, Mullally, Ferres, Leeming, Roberts.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2.30pm.