SUPER League veteran Jamie Jones-Buchanan reckons recent results prove the competition is getting closer and more unpredictable.
And he has warned that Leeds Rhinos – who travel to Warrington Wolves on Saturday – need to learn quick lessons following last weekend’s home defeat by Harlequins.
Three weeks into the season, Quins and Castleford Tigers boast the only 100 per cent records and every team – other than Hull – have recorded at least one win.
“It has been getting progressively better for the last three or four years,” said Jones-Buchanan, pictured, who made his Leeds debut in 1999.
“We are at the stage now – and Kev (Sinfield) mentioned it after Friday’s game – where if you turn up and you’re not 100 per cent and you’re not ruthless all the way through, you are going to get punished.
“We wanted to do that on Friday, in front of our own crowd. It’s really disappointing to come away from the first home game with a loss, but we have to learn from it.
“We have to be a bit more patient. I thought we started the game really well and on another day we might have scored a few more points from those opening encounters.
“But we didn’t and they battled back pretty strongly. They were more ruthless than we were and we’ve got to take lessons from that.
“We have got to play for the full 40 minutes in both halves and put a strong performance in. If you slacken off, there’s no easy moments in the game and the opposition will punish you.
“They scored a couple of unusual tries to start with and that got them on a bit of a roll and they turned it around.
“We needed to be a bit tighter in defence to match them, but we didn’t do that.”
Intercepted passes cost Rhinos three tries and Jones-Buchanan said: “We are not a million miles off. That is one of the positives.
“We are getting a lot of success out of playing at the line, but that makes you susceptible to interceptions.
“There were a couple of tired passes. I threw a couple of bad ones and I have to look at myself for that.
“We have just got to be sharper, more ruthless – and patient with it. I think we have got the players to turn teams over.
“We started well and we can take positives from that. We just need to maintain it for a lot longer.”
Rhinos’ next assignment could be their toughest so far.
Said Jones-Buchanan: “It’s a massive game, Warrington at their place. They are a form side and one of the favourites to win the competition this year.
“They had a great win against St Helens on Friday and I am sure they will be full of confidence.
“We have got to go there and perform a lot better.
“We have to put in a performance that’s two sets of 40 minutes, not 15 here and 15 there. It is early days though and there’s a long way to go.
“The season’s only been going a few weeks and we are about level with the rest of the competition.
“Most teams have had a win and a loss and there’s only Cas and Harlequins that are 100 per cent, so we just have to keep the faith and keep working hard.”