BOSS Brian McDermott has hailed Leeds Rhinos’ midfield triangle.
McDermott reckons the form of skipper Kevin Sinfield, his half-back partner Danny McGuire and hooker Rob Burrow has been at the heart of Rhinos’ upturn in form.
After losing four out of their six games in May and early June, Rhinos have hit a six-game winning streak ahead of Monday’s Stobart Super League derby at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
And McDermott said the form of his three main play-makers has been instrumental in the mid-season revival.
“I’ve been very pleased with Kev, Danny and Rob throughout this period,” said McDermott, who will be without McGuire for Monday’s game after he decided not to appeal against his one-match ban.
“They are obviously the mainstay of our team and I think that little triangle has been really important for us over the last four weeks or so.”
All three have been playing a different role since McDermott took over as coach at the start of last season.
Sinfield has made the switch from loose-forward to stand-off, McGuire has moved to scrum-half and Burrow is becoming established at acting-half.
“They have been in great form and some of the performances Kev and Magsy have put in have been very cohesive,” McDermott added.
“Rob has settled into the role at dummy-half extremely well. His game is not so much about breaks now, though he is still making them, it is more about the control he has at dummy-half.
“We’ve also been moving Rob to No 7 and bringing Shaun Lunt off the bench and he has given us another dimension. That’s working for us as well.”
McDermott also hailed Zak Hardaker for his performances since moving from centre to full-back following an injury to Brent Webb.
Hardaker has put himself in pole position to succeed Webb when he leaves the club at the end of this season and McDermott has admitted the specialist full-back’s imminent return will cause him a selection dilemma.
“Zak has played full-back before, when he was at Featherstone,” said the coach. “We suspected he could do it, but you don’t know until he goes to catch a few high balls.
“We know what he can do with the ball, but he is a sensational defensive full-back. Against Wigan in the cup semi-final he probably saved the game and he came up with some try-savers against Bradford last week.
“He is one of those kids who has the ability to play anywhere in the outside-backs.”
Meanwhile England’s academy team – featuring Rhinos trio Luke Briscoe, Liam Sutcliffe and Jordan Baldwinson – made a winning start to their four-match tour of Australia with a 28-18 victory over New South Wales juniors.
Wigan half-back Ryan Hampshire scored England’s first try and sent Warrington winger James Saltonstall over for another to give his side a 10-4 half-time lead.
New South Wales scored two quick tries early in the second half to go 18-10 in front but Warrington second rower Ben Currie touched down twice before St Helens centre Greg Wilde added a fifth try, with Hampshire kicking his fourth goal.
l Bradford coach Mick Potter says his team will continue to battle against the odds as they look to claw back the six points deducted by the Rugby Football League.
The Bulls dropped out of the play-off positions after the RFL’s board of directors removed the points gained from three of their 11 wins in Stobart Super League so far this season as a result of the club going into administration.
“It’s disappointing,” said Potter, who is working on a voluntary basis after being among 16 full-time staff made redundant last month.
“It’s no surprise. We understood that’s what happens when you go into administration, it’s part of the process for this type of thing. But it’s a massive kick in the stomach for the players, who have done all they possibly could to get results, and also the fans, who have done over and above what they had to do.”