DEFIANT CAPTAIN Kevin Sinfield admits Leeds Rhinos’ form has dipped, but says they will battle through their mid-season slump.
Sinfield feels losing key players has had a bearing on Rhinos’ performances – and they are likely to be without two more main men against Huddersfield Giants on Thursday with Zak Hardaker and Jamie Peacock both facing disciplinary charges.
Rhinos have lost two of their last three First Utility Super League fixtures to slip to second in the table and were pushed all the way by part-timers Leigh Centurions in last Friday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final.
“The last four to six weeks, I would probably say our form has not been what we started the year with and not what we expect it to be,” Sinfield admitted.
“We have been in a difficult spell since Easter in terms of games and the calibre of the players we’ve got missing makes it tough.
“We have got a good squad and some fantastic young guys who are coming in and putting their hand up, but missing the players we are missing, it is not easy.”
Sinfield added: “At the start of the year we had an opportunity to rest one or two and rotate the squad, but that has certainly changed.
“Nobody is able to have a rest, it is all hands on deck and we have certainly been doing it tough recently. We are still in a good position, I feel, but we are not playing well, we have got a tough run of games coming up and we need to be a whole lot better.”
Peacock has been charged with Grade B punching, following his yellow card against Leigh.
That carries a maximum ban of two games, reduced to one if he submits an early guilty plea.
Hardaker faces a Grade E charge of “using verbal abuse based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual preference, national or ethnic origin” in the defeat at Warrington two weeks ago and could be banned for between four and eight games.
With Carl Ablett still suspended and Paul Aiton, Rob Burrow, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Mitch Achurch and Danny McGuire on the casualty list, Rhinos face a huge challenge against visitors Huddersfield in two days’ time.
“It is tough,” Sinfield conceded. “Added to that is the fact they had a free weekend, so it makes life very difficult.
“Emotionally and physically we had to put a lot in last Friday. It was Leigh’s cup final. We worked really hard last week trying to fix things up from the Warrington game the week before and that probably took away some of our vigour.
“On Thursday we are coming up against a very good team. We got a draw against them earlier in the year, but they had beaten us the five times before that and I think they are playing better than the table suggests.”
The Giants clash is the first of eight league games before Rhinos’ Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves in August.
Sinfield said: “We are looking forward to trying to improve over the next few weeks, certainly starting on Thursday.
“We are in another tough run of games, but hopefully we can get some bodies back, our form picks up and we get a bit of time to rip in so we are ready to go come the back end of the year.”