LEEDS RHINOS are braced for a backlash from wounded Castleford Tigers at Headingley tonight.
Tigers’ bid to win all three trophies this season was shattered when they lost 32-24 at Hull in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup five days ago.
That was Hull’s second win of the year over the runaway Betfred Super League leaders and captain Danny McGuire reckons Rhinos have been given a glimpse of how to break Tigers down.
But he also feels the Cup exit will make Cas more determined as they aim for a win which could extend their advantage at the top of the table to eight points.
McGuire confirmed Leeds have looked at last Sunday’s game and he said: “Hull did a really good job, but I’d expect a bit of a backlash.
“Most teams when they lose a game – whether it be in rugby league or any other sport – you get a response.
“We just need to focus on ourselves and make sure our game is in order and whatever structure and gameplan we decide to use we need to nail it because if you don’t, Cas punish you.”
Rhinos need to win to keep alive hopes of overhauling Tigers in the race for the league leaders’ shield, but McGuire insisted: “We are excited.
“I think we are in a good place. Everybody’s enjoying what we are doing at the minute and we are finding some consistency, which is good, but it will be a big challenge for us.”
Rhinos haven’t beaten Castleford in six matches and more than two years.
The record 66-10 defeat at the Jungle three months ago was one of the Rhinos’ lowest points of the summer era and McGuire admitted Leeds need to show to themselves – and everyone else – they are capable of upsetting coach Daryl Powell’s side.
“They have definitely got the edge on us at the minute,” he conceded.
“Sometimes you can get that with teams, you find a way to win and they are doing that at the minute.
“I wouldn’t say this game is the be-all and end-all, but it’s an important game for us.
“There’s probably going to be some potentially bigger games down the line, but confidence-wise and for everything else that comes with it, I think we need to perform well.
“Everybody’s looking forward to going out there and doing a job. It will be a great atmosphere, I would imagine Cas will bring a decent following and it is all set for a great game.”
McGuire said Rhinos will be looking for a repeat of their first-half performance against Tigers at last month’s Magic Weekend, but for the full 80 minutes.
It was all square at the break, but Tigers pulled clear to win 29-18 and McGuire said: “We just had a slack 15-20 minutes and when they get opportunities they punish you.
“I think we just need to put a performance together that we can be proud of.
“The first 40 minutes at Magic was probably the most intense game we’ve played in for a while and I spoke to a few of the Cas lads afterwards and they said the same.
“I think we need to get up to that level again and really test ourselves and Cas.
“We are confident in what we are doing and I think we are steadily improving.
“There’s loads to work on, but we’re looking forward to a good tussle.”
Rhinos under-19s play City of Hull Academy in a curtain-raiser, kicking off at 5.30pm.