TOUGH-TACKLING FORWARD Stevie Ward admits Leeds Rhinos are facing a crucial week following their 27-12 loss to Wigan Warriors.
The Magic Weekend setback was Rhinos’ fourth defeat of the season and Ward, who sat out the closing stages of the game after taking a bang to the head, admitted: “It was massively disappointing.”
Said the second-rower: “At a big event you always want to win. Wigan were really good and we just weren’t quite at the races.
“I don’t think we quite nailed the game plan and that’s what happens.”
Assessing what went wrong, Ward added: “Wigan were good and they took their chances.
“I don’t think we made the tackles we normally make and there wasn’t that extra edge to our attack that we normally have.
“That was the main difference.”
The defeat three days ago was a costly one for Rhinos. With second-placed St Helens holding on to beat Warrington Wolves the following afternoon, Rhinos’ advantage at the top of the table, which was six points on April 17, is down to just one.
Wigan are a further point back, so Leeds could drop down to third if they lose at bottom club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Sunday and Saints and Warriors both pick up victories.
“We have to bounce back,” Ward said. “It is a big test for us, going to Wakefield.
“We have got to be on our game, so this week is a massive one for us.
“We’ve got a big week leading into it, so we’ve got to nail everything and get back on to it, because it’s not easy when you are losing like that.
“It is a tricky game this week and probably a bigger effort’s needed.
“We need to go there and put it to them, because Wakefield have got players who can break and counter-attack.
“That’s something we need to look at and we need a good week’s training for it.”
Of the situation on the table, Ward admitted Rhinos never expected to remain six points clear.
“We knew it was going to be a contest,” he said. “We weren’t going to hold on to a runaway lead in Super League, that just doesn’t happen.
“We have got to look at things and get back on the horse.
“It’s not all highs in a season, you have got to go through the lows. It’s part of the job, you’ve got to deal with these, patch yourself back up and get back out there.”
Ward will need to pass a concussion test before being available for Sunday’s derby. Rhinos’ medical staff will also check on full-back Zak Hardaker, who suffered an ankle injury and had his damaged foot in a protective boot yesterday.