TONIGHT’S Cup tie will be a Super League game in everything but name, Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has warned.
Rhinos take on Leigh Centurions in a Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final looking to become the first team to beat the visitors in 17 competitive games this year.
Leigh are seven points clear at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship and have scored 538 points in 13 league games, with just 212 conceded.
“We know a fair bit about them,” McDermott said.
“We played them a couple of years ago in the Challenge Cup and we know the worth of them.
“If you look through their squad they have got a good number of players who have played for a good number of Super League teams, or have been at Super League clubs.
“I have been documenting this all the way through, they are a good team.
“We are preparing for a Super League-standard team and a game played at the standard, the pace and the intensity of a Super League game.
“Usually (against lower division opposition) we have to prepare for how we will manage that step down, but there won’t be a step down this week – they are a good team, they are in good shape and they will fancy their chances.”
While Leigh will travel to Headingley full of confidence, Rhinos are looking to bounce back from a painful 26-6 loss at Warrington Wolves a week ago.
That was Leeds’ heaviest defeat of the campaign and cost them top spot in First Utility Super League, but McDermott said getting back on track is just one incentive for tonight.
“After this game there is a Challenge Cup semi-final on offer, so we are highly motivated to get through to that next round,” McDermott stated.
“We have been working really hard this week to ensure we are in the best possible shape to do that.”
Rhinos have lost three times in 17 competitive games this season, but two of those defeats were in their last three matches.
Asked if Rhinos have hit a mid-season blip, McDermott said: “I don’t know about that.
“We are going to lose some games, that’s the reality of it.
“I don’t know if it is healthy for us, come play-off time, if we go 27 games unbeaten. With every loss and every below-par performance we need to be able to use that to make sure it doesn’t happen again and we are a better team for it.
“That said, you never go into a game wanting to lose and you do your damndest to be the best you can be.
“We have to register that last week wasn’t good enough. We had far too many blokes who looked out of place in those early exchanges against Warrington.
“Once the game settled down a bit we tried to get a hold in it, but Warrington are a difficult team once they are in front, they rarely concede a lead.
“The start was important for us. That’s where we feel we let ourselves down.
“We need to have the right reaction. After the season’s finished we will look back and be able to highlight some games that did the team good.
“Hopefully we will be looking back at the end of the year and pointing a finger at the Warrington away game and thinking that was a real good moment for this team because we realised one or two things we needed to get right.
“As it is at the moment it is heavy work. It is not easy and that’s how it is at this time of the year.”