WE AREN’T a bad team, we’re just not in form. That’s the assessment player of the year Kallum Watkins’ has given of Leeds Rhinos’ plight ahead of tonight’s must-win final First Utility Super-8s tie at Huddersfield Giants.
Victory would secure Rhinos’ first league leaders’ shield since 2009, but they could drop out of the top-two – and lose home advantage in next week’s semi-final – if they are defeated.
St Helens’ 32-16 home defeat by Warrington last night means Rhinos can finish no lower than third.
Rhinos have lost their last three games since winning the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, but Watkins reckons it’s the “little things” that are letting them down.
He said: “It think it’s the small stuff, communication in defence and little things like that that aren’t going to plan or how we’d want them to go.
“Certainly, this year we’ve been playing very well and very consistently and you don’t become a bad team, but the little things are what we need to do better. We came off a great win in at Wembley
and we needed to kick on from there. In terms of our form, it hasn’t been great, but we have got every belief and confidence we can get that back.
“We aren’t a bad team, we are just not in form. We have got to get that back going into the semi-final and hopefully the Grand Final.
“We are working hard on what we need to do to get back playing with a bit more confidence and hopefully we’ll come up with a great performance (tonight).”
Giants will snatch a home play-off if they extend their winning run to six games.
Watkins warned: “It is going to be tough. Huddersfield are the form team at the moment and they are playing really well.
“We’d be disappointed not to finish in the top two. It’s important to get a home tie in the semi-final, which is something we haven’t had for a long time.
“Obviously we’ve got to put in a great performance to do that.
“A lot of hard work has being put in through the week and we are prepared for what should be a great game.”
The final round of league matches began with all the top-four having a mathematical chance of lifting the leaders’ shield. Leeds could finish anywhere from first to fourth and Watkins said: “That adds a bit more spice to it and it’s what’s great about our sport. There’s a bit of the unknown. Whoever wins the league leaders’ it will give them great confidence going into the semi-final. It’s very interesting and very exciting times for everyone involved.”
Meanwhile, Watkins admitted he was shocked to be chosen as Rhinos’ player of the year.
The award was handed out by coach Brian McDermott this week and the England centre said: “I feel very, very pleased and very fortunate.
“A few more players could have got it as well, so I feel very privileged. I didn’t expect it, I think I have had a decent year, but a lot of other players have as well.”
Watkins will go into the game needing one try to reach a career century. Rhinos full-back Zak Hardaker needs two tries to reach his career century, while tonight’s game will be the 550th of Jamie Peacock’s career.
The RFL have announced a helicopter will be on standby to deliver the League Leaders Shield to the winning team after the final whistle.