Veteran prop Kylie Leuluai insists Leeds Rhinos can benefit from their shock defeat at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats as the Wembley countdown continues.
Monday’s 38-18 loss at Rapid Solicitors Stadium ended a six-game winning run, but Leuluai reckons it gives them an opportunity to re-focus ahead of the Carnegie Challenge Cup final date with Warrington Wolves three weeks today.
Rhinos have three games to play before the final, beginning with tomorrow’s trip to Hull KR.
“We had to do too much defence,” Leuluai said of Monday’s setback. “Wakefield were very enthusiastic, as we knew they would be.
“We lost the game, it’s as simple as that. We have been on a high for so long, but you can’t win everything.
“You are always going to have challenges. We have some areas to fix up and I see that as a positive – it is a good lesson, especially with the big game at Wembley coming up in a few weeks.
“You can’t go into a big game like that cruising, you have to be trying to correct things week in and week out.
“We have got three weeks to go and we’ve got to work on certain things, so then we hopefully can peak when we get to the final.
“We don’t want to be peaking now. We peaked against Wigan in the semi-final and we’ve got to do that against Warrington in the final.”
Leuluai insisted Rhinos’ aim had been to win every game between the semi and final and he is aware they can’t afford many more slip-ups as they chase a high finish in Stobart Super League.
“It is never good losing, you always want to win everything – but you can take positives from everything you do,” he stated.
“We are not panicking. Wakefield played well, but we have had a good week’s training and we’ve had a good six weeks before Monday.
“We’ve turned up for training this week, we’ve been getting ready for Hull KR and we’re trying to fix those areas that went wrong.
“We have got to cut out the errors, we made too many of those, especially on their line. We didn’t complete enough sets and we gave them the ball too easily.”
The defeat has added extra importance to what already looked like a pivotal game for Rhinos tomorrow.
Rhinos began round 23 occupying fifth spot, four points behind St Helens and Catalan Dragons in third and fourth.
They were ahead of Hull on points difference, two clear of Huddersfield Giants and with a five-point advantage over Hull KR.
“It is a tough place to go,” Leuluai said of the trip to Craven Park. “But we will be ready for that.
“When you lose, it means you have the chance to bounce back the next week They are going well, we had a tough encounter with them at the start of the season and they’ve improved since then.
“It is up to us to try and climb the hill again.”
Leuluai was due to retire at the end of this season, but signed a new deal for 2013 after having a change of heart.
“I am loving it,” he said. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be playing. I would not do something I am not enjoying. I love it, I love these times, these challenges ahead. These are the challenges I will miss when I’ve retired.
“This week is a challenge, but that comes with experience. there’s always areas to improve.
“We are tweaking those areas. We will work hard and hopefully get them right for this Sunday and for the weeks ahead.”
After tomorrow Rhinos have just two more games before the final, at home to Widnes Vikings in six days’ time and against Catalan Dragons in Perpignan exactly a week before Wembley.
“We are taking it week by week,” Leuluai stressed. “We prepared as best as we could for the Wakefield game and it didn’t work out, so we have to look at what went wrong.
“We’ve a big few weeks coming up and the main thing is to recognise that we aren’t perfect, we have got weaknesses and overcoming them is the challenge.
“once we do, we can perform like we did against Wigan.
“I know the supporters won’t be happy with how we played the other night, but we will try our best, we will keep going and we will try and improve.”
Meanwhile, Leuluai and wife Lebron are celebrating the recent birth of their third child, a baby boy Rocco.
“We’ve three boys now,” Leulaui said. “I am loving it, I am living the dream.”