The YEP jury have their say ahead of Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield Giants at Headingley.
After the debacle, that was the trip across the Pennines to Warrington Wolves, a Cup quarter-final at home to unbeaten Leigh Centurions was our reward for knocking out Saints.
On paper, this game should have been pretty straightforward. Even though they are unbeaten in the Championship, a home draw for one of the best teams in the Super League era should have been a step too far.
But it took us 70 minutes to put the game to bed. Leigh and their fans were fantastic and it was a great tie. I thought Steve Ward and Sooty (spelt that way to annoy Gavin) were the pick of a mediocre first-half performance. The second half was the Brett Delaney show: power, poise and the fighting spirit we needed to get through into the last four.
Bringing Robbie Ward on for the last 15 minutes changed the game in our favour and he got his second try in the first team.
Kirke seems to be missing more tackles than he makes, but Ryan Bailey had a good game, too. It was nice to see the #bashbrothers on the field together. It was a poor crowd too at 7,145, but those of us who were there saw a good cup game.
I am still in a state of confusion as to why when we play the top teams away, we change our game-plan to when we face up to them at Headingley.
We have beaten St Helens, Warrington and Wigan at home and quite easily, it has to be said, because we passed the ball out to the backs.
It’s not rocket-science when we have one of the best three-quarter lines in the league – give them the ball and they finish off what the forwards start.
So why oh why do we change it when we go away? At Saints, Magic Weekend and at Warrington we slipped into one pass, take a tackle rugby.
Why are we doing this Mac? It makes travelling fans’ blood boil to watch the drivel that we served up in those three games. We would much rather lose by showing some fight and throwing the ball about.
When we play the lower teams away, we play them like a home game, letting the ball do the work, and passing out wide. What happens? We win!! It’s like the players are told not to lose, but by 40 minutes it’s all over.
We need a new direction, some new ideas, maybe a good assistant-manager, as, after Jimmy Lowes left to join Carnegie rugby union, it has all been down to McDermott. With nobody questioning him, we don’t seem to be moving forward. After the great start to the season we have had, we seem to be going backwards.
The great defence we started with has slipped a little in recent games.
Last Friday’s Challenge Cup tie was a very big spectacle for all: Leigh to see how they have come on this season, Leeds to get some heads shaken together and put in a performance.
Leigh brought a hefty bunch of fans for the trip over and they weren’t disappointed at all. Leigh were very good in attack and defence, they were the better side for the majority of the game, until Robbie Ward went over for a typical hooker’s try, to the delight of all Leeds fans in the ground.
I was very impressed with the stint that Josh Walters had in the game, he came on with enthusiasm and is very strong, definitely one to look out for in the future.
A few Leigh players impressed me, Sam Barlow and Ryan Brierley.
When they had the ball, you could see them looking to take a chance. Ryan Brierley is in the mould of Danny McGuire, I wouldn’t mind signing him for the Rhinos to be his replacement in the coming years.
He oozes class and that will only grow in the youngster.
Leeds’ win gained them a place in the semi-final v Warrington, which is the toughest way to get to Wembley.
Tonight we face a tough home tie v Huddersfield Giants. Without the likes of Ablett, Achurch, Aiton, Burrow, JJB, McGuire and the banned Hardaker, it’s going to take a lot to beat this Huddersfield side, who have been our bogey team for quite some time now.
Leeds are just 80 minutes away from the Challenge Cup final and Wembley. Leigh did themselves and the Championship proud, pushing the Rhinos all the way to the wire in the tie. Huddersfield are next up for Leeds and, after the 12-12 draw earlier in the season, I predict another close encounter.
Being in the hat for the next round is all I ever ask when it comes to the Challenge Cup and Leeds have delivered, but only just.
Great credit goes to Leigh who put in an outstanding display full of desire, guts and team spirit. Take note Dr Koukash, that is something money can’t buy and Leigh will not look out of place in Super League when the time comes.
Tonight we take on a Giants team who are starting to find their feet and have had a week’s rest.
We are a little patched up at the moment and experience around the ruck both offensively and defensively is where we are struggling. Stopping Lunt will be a key factor in securing a win.
Leigh came to play last week and put on one of the best performances by a visiting team at Headingley for some time. Enthusiastic, talented and played to a game-plan. Leeds have to play themselves back into form in the league starting against Huddersfield with a number of key players missing.
Friday was not as impressive a performance as everyone hoped it would be but Leeds are through to the Challenge Cup semi-final. Leigh Centurions came to Headingley with a belief that they could win.
The semi-final draw has matched us with Warrington Wolves. As it is nine weeks until we play it’s impossible to make any predictions. Who knows which players will be available and how the teams will be playing by then?
Huddersfield Giants are the visitors to Headingley on Thursday night. Leeds seem to struggle against them in recent times although they did manage a draw earlier in the season. The absence of Peacock and Hardaker will not make things any easier.