TOUGH-TACKLING FORWARD Stevie Ward says there is no point Leeds Rhinos thinking about trophies until their performances improve.
Defeat at home to Castleford Tigers could cost Leeds top spot in the First Utility Super-8s table, if Wigan Warriors win at St Helens tomorrow.
Alternatively, victories in their next four matches would complete an historic clean-sweep of honours, but Ward reckons all they can focus on this evening is playing well.
Leeds have lost both games since their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR and recapturing the form of three weeks ago is their priority.
“We are focusing on the performance more than anything,” said Ward. “Coming towards the end of the season, everyone wants to be hitting their straps going into the semis.
“We want to finish the best we can and we want that league leaders’ shield. Points are important but, performance-wise, we need to be back up where we were before the Challenge Cup final.
“We have to get things right, because we’ve been off it the last few weeks.”
Asked what has gone wrong, Ward said: “Every team has dips in form. We’ve just not been doing things how we have consistently throughout the year.
“Those little things were missing against Saints and Catalans. A three quarter performance and add on those little bits and they take you through to the win.”
Rhinos were being described as unstoppable after the Wembley triumph and Ward added: “That’s just a bit of pressure added on.
“We know the job we need to do. The game doesn’t change when other people say stuff about us.
“We know what we are capable of and we just need to make sure we do those things.
“We haven’t been doing them the last two weeks.”
Castleford are out of contention for a semi-final place, but won at Headingley in June and Ward knows they would love to repeat that tonight.
“We had a terrible start to that game,” Ward recalled
“We managed to turn it around, but we didn’t get the result.
“It’s that overwhelming feeling of everyone being on that we have to have against Cas, because they are going to throw everything at us.
“They have got nothing to lose, so we have to put the fires out before they start.
“We don’t want to go into it thinking they have got nothing to play for, because they always want to win here.
“Catalans didn’t have anything to play for.
“Everyone wants to finish strong, more so us because we want to be league leaders, but teams want to stop us.
“We are going to have to be good and really dominant in that game.”
Tonight will be Ward’s sixth match since returning from an ankle injury.
He said: “I want to be doing a bit more damage with the ball and getting a few more carries under my belt.
“It has been a tough couple of months and I want to get back into doing the big things right and having a good impact.”