TWO UNBEATEN teams will clash head-on at Headingley Carnegie tonight, but captain Kevin Sinfield reckons Leeds Rhinos need to step up a gear to beat surprise package Widnes Vikings.
Rhinos’ winning run was halted by a 12-12 draw at Huddersfield last week, but Sinfield said their below-par performance meant it felt like a defeat.
The skipper insisted he has seen encouraging signs so far this year, but reckons Leeds can play a lot better and will have to do tonight, against an in-form Widnes team who have won three from three.
“I think we have been building pretty well,” Sinfield said.
“I thought some of the signs we showed against Catalan were promising.
“Last week at Huddersfield there were some spells in the game when we played some really good stuff, but I suppose like everybody else we are craving to put a complete 80 in.
“I think having looked at our first four fixtures, if you’d said we’d have seven points I probably would have taken that, being honest. I still think we are really positive and the fact people have been disappointed this week and we treated last week’s game like a loss is a good thing.
“It shows where we are at as a group and where we would like to get to.”
Sinfield added: “There’s loads of improvement in us.
“I think we have faced four tough teams in our first four games.
“We’ve played the top-two from last year and another two from last year’s top-eight and we’ve had a couple of tough games on the road.
“We’ve been to Huddersfield and Catalan and Hull KR and they have always been difficult places for us to go.
“I think the thing we were most disappointed with last Friday was our performance.
“In many ways it shows us how much work still needs to be done.
“We have said all year what a great squad we’ve got and I firmly believe that, but I don’t think it did us any harm to come in on Monday and feel like we’d had a loss.
“We felt really disappointed with how we played and we had some frustration about it.
“There is loads for us to fix up and we are really looking forward to [tonight] against a tough Widnes side who have shown already – with three wins from three – they are not messing around.
“It is a great test for us again.
“To give Huddersfield credit I thought they played very well and I feel like we were a bit lucky to get a point.
“I know during the closing minutes we had our chances, like the drop goal hitting the post and we could have come away with the spoils, but I think that would have been really unfair on Huddersfield.
“It would also have put a gloss over a performance that wasn’t good enough.”
Sinfield admitted he is feeling better about last week’s point now than he did straight after the game.
He reflected: “We put a lot in and having watched it back, it probably doesn’t look as bad as it felt at the time.
“Sometimes it is like that when your emotions are running high and you’re tired.
“I think because we felt that territory-wise and momentum-wise Huddersfield certainly had the upper hand, that makes it difficult to not be disappointed.
“We have fixed some things up this week, we hope, and we will come out firing. It is only our second home game, so we are looking forward to testing and challenging ourselves against a Widnes side that look very strong at the moment.”
Widnes finished ninth last year and are Rhinos’ first opponents not to have qualified for the 2013’s play-offs.
They have beaten London Broncos, Huddersfield and Salford Red Devils, but have yet to venture away from Select Security Stadium and have a game in hand as their meeting with Wigan Warriors was postponed due to the World Club Challenge.
Sinfield said another stern test is what Rhinos need, but he isn’t expecting any straight-forward games this year. “I think everybody’s dangerous and each week each team will pose a different challenge,” he predicted.
“I think we know we have to perform, especially being at home.
“On the back of our performance last week, even though we got a point, I think we need to show a little bit more than that.
“Hopefully we can come out and play very well and get back on track.”
Sinfield – who holds the Leeds and Super League records for most points and goals – is 16 points short of 3,500 for his club.
Leeds Rhinos: from Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Sinfield, K Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Ward, Ablett, Delaney, Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Achurch, Singleton, Bailey, Jones-Bishop.
Widnes Vikings: from Hanbury, Flynn, Dean, Phelps, Owens, Brown, Mellor, Kavanagh, Clarke, Gerrard, Galea, Tickle, M Leuluai, Clough, Isa, White, Ah Van, Craven, Lloyd.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Widnes).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.