CAPTAIN FANTASTIC Kevin Sinfield reckons Leeds Rhinos’ stunning win at Huddersfield Giants marked a return to form.
But he insists they will need to play better in Friday’s First Utility Super League semi-final at home to St Helens.
Rhinos ended a run of three defeats with their last-gasp 20-16 victory at Huddersfield, which also secured top spot on the table for the first time since 2009.
Rhinos trailed 16-8 inside the last 10 minutes, but Tom Briscoe’s try and a Sinfield conversion and penalty levelled the scores, before Ryan Hall touched down on the final play to win it.
The result secured the league leaders’ shield and a home tie this week, allowing departing trio Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai a final Headingley appearance.
“I thought we made some strides on Friday,” Sinfield said.
“The three games before that, we’d been poor by our standards.
“On Friday at times we weren’t great, but I thought our first half performances was pretty good and to claw our way back after all that defence in the second half was very special.
“I am so proud to be part of that team and for me personally, I am desperate to play at Headingley again this week, just like I was desperate to lift the shield.
“I think the boys have got plenty of focus now and hopefully it will give us a real spring in our step in training this week. We are looking forward to Saints, we know what a great team they are and how dangerous they are, but it’s a semi-final.
“We need to play better than we did on Friday, but I think the signs are there that we are back to something like where we can play.”
Sinfield is confident he will be available for the game in three days’ time.
He suffered a severe dead leg in the home loss to Castleford Tigers two weeks ago and was a doubt for the match at Huddersfield right until the warm-up.
“We have got a great medical team and Andy Barker (Rhinos’ head physio) worked overtime on me last week,” he said.
“I just wanted to play. It is a great team and I won’t get an opportunity again to lift the shield.
“I knew how important Friday was and I really wanted to play at Headingley again with the Rhinos, given what happened against Castleford.
“I was desperate to play for all those reasons.
“It wasn’t great going in. I had a bit of a jog around on Thursday, but I couldn’t walk for the majority of the week.
“The medical staff did a great job on me and my fitness test was the warm-up, but as soon as I got there and I saw the crowd, the adrenaline started pumping.
“I was delighted to get through the game and what a special ending it was. To be where I was a week earlier and to go from there to lifting the shield on Friday night made me pretty proud to be part of this team and this club.
“I will be fine for this week. I didn’t get a bang during the game, which was the risk, but after the warm-up and the work I’d done, I thought it was a calculated risk.
“I felt confident and to come through was brilliant. I’m sure I’ll have more work done on it this week, but I don’t expect to miss any training or to be feeling any ill-effects from it.”
Rhinos are now two wins away from completing a clean sweep of domestic trophies.
They have already achieved a league leaders and Challenge Cup double, for only the second time in the club’s history.
Leeds led the table for most of the campaign and asked if they were worthy league winners, Sinfield said: “That’s probably for somebody else to say.
“But throughout the course of the year it has been really, really tough.
“I think the true champions are the ones that finish top and thankfully we’ve managed to do it – with four seconds to spare.
“In my time here as captain we’ve only been able to do it twice before and they are special.
“Perhaps the other two haven’t meant as much, but Friday certainly did.”