LEEDS RHINOS will go into the second half of the First Utility Super League season on top of the table, but coach Brian McDermott insists they aren’t yet ready for the really big games.
Last Saturday’s 18-14 Magic Weekend loss to Wigan Warriors was only Rhinos’ second defeat in 15 competitive matches this year.
Both those were by a four-point margin and Rhinos have conceded just 126 points in the league, 90 fewer than Wigan, who have the second-best defence with a game in hand.
Rhinos are through to the quarter-finals of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup and have a one-point advantage over St Helens – the only other team to beat them – on the league table.
McDermott described the opening half of the campaign as “good”, but insisted Leeds need to get better.
He said: “We aren’t content where we are, but if you asked me if we wanted to be on top of the ladder after round 13, I’d say yes, I will take that.
“But I will qualify that – if we had to go into the play-offs now – or a Challenge Cup final or semi-final – I don’t think we are where we need to be.
“We have got a little while yet to keep honing what we have got to do and keep sharpening our tools.
“There’s clearly some things that are working well for us. Our challenge is to keep those traits within us.”
McDermott feels being able to rotate his squad was one of the major positives of the first half of the campaign.
Injuries have prevented that in the previous three seasons and the coach said: “That has been a benefit.
“We’ve been able to rotate one or two forwards and Kev [Sinfield] and Mags [Danny McGuire] have had a bit of a break as well.
“Kallum Watkins was the only outside-back we haven’t rested so far. I know we rested him over Easter, but that’s not a weekend off as such.
“Ironically he had to be rested last weekend because he was ill. For the second half of the year we are healthier than what we were at this time of year.
“We are looking forward to the second half of the year and to improving and getting better.”
Asked if there is more to come from Rhinos, McDermott said: “Absolutely.
“I think consistency throughout a game and tenacity throughout a game is something we have probably got to show more of.
“We have taken teams on and scored some fantastic tries and got the game in the bag - for some of them - early.
“But even in the St Helens Challenge Cup game there were some moments when they broke us down.
“In the Wigan game at our place we had some moments when they broke us down and we lacked concentration.
“Against Castleford in the early stages we were rattled and then again last weekend.
“You look at recent games and while some of those were big wins along the road - significant wins - our performance wasn’t where it needed to be.
“That is something we - as coaches and players - are focusing on.”
Meanwhile, McDermott confirmed Watkins will be back in contention for Friday’s visit of Hull.
He said: “He will be all right. He was ill, he had a sickness so he wasn’t able to play on Saturday, but he will be right this week.”