EVER-PRESENT FORWARD Adam Cuthbertson admits home pride has been dented and Leeds Rhinos need to “bounce back” tonight.
Rhinos will face St Helens at Headingley six days after losing 23-12 there to Betfred Super League leaders Castleford Tigers.
A win this evening would effectively eliminate Saints from the race to end the regular season in the top-four.
The leading quartet after the opening 23 rounds have the advantage of four home games in the Super-8s – and three away – but Cuthbertson said, rather than looking at the table, Rhinos are more focused on proving they are better than their performance last week suggested.
One thing we have been doing well is bouncing back. We have a chance to do it at home this week and we haven’t had many chances to do that.Leeds Rhinos’ Adam Cuthbertson
“It was disappointing, the loss, but it’s more disappointing to lose in the fashion we did, especially at home,” said the ball-handling Aussie prop.
“We try to keep our pride at home and make it a fortress. We love playing at Headingley and we love making teams come here and giving them a challenge.
“It wasn’t our best display of football last week, but one thing we have been doing well is bouncing back.
“We have a chance to do it at home this week and we haven’t had many chances to do that so we are looking forward to getting back out there.”
Rhinos were strong in defence against Tigers, but poor handling meant the visitors were not put under sustained pressure and both Leeds’ tries came directly from opposition mistakes.
“Our handling was terrible,” Cuthbertson admitted. “Myself, I was dreadful! I think it’s just concentration levels and adapting to the conditions.
“It wasn’t the best conditions and obviously the team that adapted best and quickest on the night was who got the win, because their handling wasn’t too bad.”
Asked if Rhinos were trying too hard last week – against a side who had beaten them twice previously this year – Cuthbertson said: “I think with that we’ve got to change our tactics a little bit, slow it down maybe a little bit and just get to the play-the-ball.
“You want to win the ruck, obviously, but you want to do it in a fashion where you keep hold of the ball and you’re not giving away too many loose balls in the wrong end of the field. I think they did that really well and unfortunately we didn’t.”
With four games remaining in the weekly rounds, Rhinos are fourth in the table. They have a two-point cushion over Wakefield Trinity and five-point advantage on sixth-placed Saints.
“You don’t really look behind you,” Cuthbertson insisted. “You just want to win each week. You want to be in that top-four come the end of the year and as high up in it as possible.
“You get home games against tougher opponents and that makes a big difference.”
Saints, who beat Leeds 6-4 on their home turf in the opening game of the season, and Castleford are the only teams Rhinos have not defeated in Super League this term.
Saints have won four of their six games under new coach Justin Holbrook and hit back from 24-8 down inside the last 10 minutes to stun Salford Red Devils 25-24 last Friday.
Matty Smith landed the winning drop goal after the final hooter and Cuthbertson said: “I’ve seen the end of their game.
“It was quite odd, but good teams will get a win any way they can and that’s what they did. They’ve obviously picked up their game a little bit. The last time I got to watch them, besides last weekend, was their Challenge Cup game against Cas. I think the team they have turned into since then is miles out in front of where they were. I don’t know Justin Holbrook, but he has been around the traps long enough to know how to put a good team together.
“It’s going to be tricky, but it always is when we play Saints.
“They are one of our big rivals and I’m sure it’ll make for a tough game.”
Dewsbury-born prop Alex Walmsley is a Saints player Cuthbertson rates highly. He said: “He carries the ball really well and his combination with [James] Roby is quite strong and one you’ve got to be on your toes with, otherwise it can be a tough day at the office.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us as a forward pack. It is up to us to do a job on them.”
Cuthbertson is the only player to have featured in all Rhinos’ 21 games so far this season. That’s something he is proud of and he said: “It has been a big year so far and rightly so, because I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at.
“I had a few bumps and bruises over the Wakefield/Challenge Cup weekend, which wasn’t ideal, but I played a few less minutes last week and I think it has done me a world of good, freshening me up.
“I had a blip on the weekend, but it happens to the best of us and I’ll learn from it and get back to where I was at. I have been managing myself really well and I’d like to think I can get through the whole year and play my best football too.”