The YEP jury make their predictions ahead of Leeds Rhinos’ Super League clash against Wigan Warriors at Headingley.
The two best clubs – and squads – in my opinion drew battle lines to face each other for an epic Tetley’s Challenge Cup tie at Headingley last Saturday and we were not disappointed.
Yet again Jamie Peacock ran his blood to water and to play at the age of 36 at this level, he is a freak of nature.
The size of some of the hits in the game was like watching Californian Redwoods being felled; the hit from Ian Kirke on Kyle Amour in the first half was testament to that.
Our defence yet again was amazing and credit for that has to go to Brian McDermott. If only we had passed out wide when we played at Saints we would have won that too.
At least Mac changed it for this match up. Ryan Hall came up with yet another outstanding performance. His power and pace and ability to hand-off and run at and past players gave him a very well deserved man of the match.
The only downside was the injury to Rob Burrow. Get fit soon Rob, I hope you didn’t get it when you did your forward roll!
And great credit to all the fans that turned out. Saints brought a load too, which just added to the amazing atmosphere.
With Stevie Ward looking like he may be missing for a few weeks with his ankle injury he picked up the other week, it should now give Ben Jones-Bishop a good run in the team, which he fully deserves.
He is far too good a player to be sat out and not be in the team week in, week out. He even made it into the tabloid press a few weeks ago with the rumours, still going round, that he may be going to the play for the dark side (union) or, even worse, a move to the Warrington Wolves.
Why would you let one of your best players go to a rival club that most years are up at the top fighting for silverwear?
We hear rumours that Zak Hardaker has also not put pen to paper after he came back to the club early following his England issues in the World Cup. Word has it, he was denied a holiday that he had booked, and when a new contract was offered he was not willing to sign.
Is this a sign that McDermott’s man management skills leave a lot to be desired?
If Zac and Ben Jones-Bishop leave the club where does that leave the full-back position?
As Wigan have found this year, a world-class full-back like Sam Tomkins is very had to replace. And with our players able to fill in at centre and in the half-backs why would you not try your best to keep them both at the club for the long term?
What a superb win on Saturday against a very strong St Helens team, but it came with a big loss as well.
Losing Rob Burrow for up to 12 weeks is a massive blow as he has been one of our best players in our recent run of form and is consistent in performances.
The loss leaves us without a hooker going into a pivotal part of the season, starting against Wigan Warriors at Headingley tomorrow.
I am hoping we can get a positive from this and see another youngster in Robbie Ward getting a chance.
He has been influential in the under-19s for the past two seasons and deserves the chance to show what he has to offer.
As I said in pre-season, Leeds Rhinos should be targeting a Tetley’s Challenge Cup win this season as it’s been our hoodoo for a few years, as well as the golden generation’s only trophy they haven’t won!
A kind draw is what we wanted for the quarter-finals and that’s what we have got versus Leigh Centurions at Headingley.
Leigh are unbeaten in the Championship this season so far so it could turn into a tough tie. Ryan Brierley is their star man, scoring tries for fun so it will be interesting to see them versus a Super League team, more-so with the new structure that is coming into play in rugby league from 2015.
Losing Rob Burrow was the only negative in what was a brilliant victory over St Helens last Saturday afternoon.
Burrow has joined an injury list which already includes the likes of Paul Aiton and Jamie Jones-Buchanan, to name but a couple, so Wigan will really fancy their chances tomorrow night.
Saturday’s game was a nervous one for both players and fans, it was do or die. If Leeds lost they were out of the Challenge Cup.
As fans we knew that the players would do everything they could to beat St Helens.
Ryan Hall had an immense game and another great defensive display saw Rhinos through to the quarter-finals.
The Challenge Cup draw was kind for a change – Leigh Centurions at home.
An injury to Robbie Burrow leaves Brian McDermott with a selection headache for the Wigan game.
There is no reason to think that we can’t come away with the two points even though Wigan seem to be improving on their early-season form.
Zak Hardaker, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Kallum Watkins, Tom Briscoe, Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Carl Ablett, Mitch Achurch, Brett Delaney, Liam Sutcliffe, Ian Kirke, Brad Singleton, Chris Clarkson. You were all magnificent against Saints – same again tomorrow please.
Challenge Cup games always bring out the nerves for me. Some say the magic of the cup is waning, but I think Rhinos fans and players still believe in that magic.
We badly want to lift the trophy in August and sometimes that emotion can be an extra obstacle to overcome. But on Saturday the boys produced a controlled display, showing again great desire to defend their line at all costs. The only downside was the loss of Rob Burrow to injury. I wish him a speedy recovery. This could be a chance for Robbie Ward to gain some Super League experience.
The Challenge Cup quest is set aside now with Wigan next up. Another massive test but one we will relish.