The YEPO jury makes its predictions ahead of Wakefield Wildcats v Leeds Rhinos in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup.
I witnessed a great game of rugby league last Friday night.
The desire and commitment from both sides was outstanding and the game could have gone either way. It is a tough sport and the horrific injury sustained by Newcastle Knights star Alex McKinnon makes you appreciate what these players put their bodies through for our enjoyment.
On that note, I wish Alex a speedy recovery, I’m sure the rugby community will give him all the support he needs.
On Friday credit goes to St Helens for some super defence and two great opportunist tries. As a fan I don’t like losing any game, but a defeat such as this is softened when the team plays well and could easily have snatched the win had Sinfield been successful with the drop goal. It was breathless stuff and hopefully this defeat will give us some motivation for when we meet again.
I have a feeling Saints versus Leeds will not just be confined to league fixtures this year.
The one confusing thing for me this season and to some extent last season is our use of the interchanges. Not for the first time this season we have not used our full compliment.
I don’t know if this is a new innovation from Brian McDermott that we are leading the way with or whether it is a complete misuse of personnel. I would like to understand the reason we only use three substitutes. Brian has not exactly been forthcoming with his thoughts on why he does this, which is a little frustrating.
Is it really benefitting the team? I’m no expert but at this stage I can’t see the positives. The fact we are not getting an explanation as to why only adds to my confusion.
This week we have a rest from Super League and start on the road to Wembley. It is no secret this is the Holy Grail for this Rhinos team as it has been for the last decade. Like the team the fans are desperate for a winning return to Wembley.
Wakefield stand in our way in round four. They have been well below par for most of this season with only flashes of form, but this is the Challenge Cup and we must go there expecting them to put together 80 minutes of their best rugby.
The old clichés will come out during the week from the coaches and players – “there are no second chances” and “ the form book goes out of the window”. The most important cliché is this “It’s the result that matters”.
We want a day in the capital and I expect Leeds to be in the hat for the next round.
Come on Rhinos the Road to Wembley starts now.
There was great anticipation that last Friday’s game between the two unbeaten teams in Super League could be one of the best games so far this season. The game did not disappoint.
It was end to end stuff with both defences in great form. A couple of mistakes from Leeds and two brilliant tries from Saints meant that St Helens came out on top, but either team could have won.
Next up is the Challenge Cup. The Rhinos will once again face Super League opposition, away at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. The Wildcats were soundly beaten by Hull KR last Sunday and by all accounts did not play well.
This doesn’t mean that the game this Sunday will be a walkover for the Rhinos. Wakefield will up their game and Leeds will need to put in a good performance to beat them.
The Challenge Cup is the Rhinos Holy Grail and it will take a better team than Wakefield to stop them achieving it. It will be interesting to see which Rhinos players Brian McDermott names in his team for Sunday.
Will Ryan Bailey be back? Anything other than a win for Leeds would be unthinkable, but the win needs to be convincing after the loss at Saints . This game is made all the more intriguing as the Wakefield team contains a number of ex Rhinos. Having said all that the Rhinos should be in the hat for the fifth round.
Tactics. What were they at Saints? Leaving a sub’ on the bench against a tiring pack and being beaten by a patched-up Saints was not good.
The murmurings in the stand would not be pleasant hearing for Brian McDermott. The Cup is a distraction this week and let’s hope for a win, depending on tactics.
If last Friday night’s defeat tells us anything, it confirms that Leeds need to play with a recognised hooker.
Their worst performance of the season coincided with Paul Aiton’s absence and, as I’ve repeatedly said, without him our backs see less of the ball and our main attacking threat is nullified.
Credit to Brian McDermott though, he has changed Leeds this season into a quicker more attacking side, but Leeds retreated into the blunt, flat attacking play, synonymous with the last few years, and paid the price.
I’m not hitting the panic button just yet and if Aiton is fit I expect Leeds to bounce back against Wakefield and begin a march to Wembley.
You can drop a player for playing poor, but you can’t drop a coach for poor decisions.
BJB was on the bench and didn’t come on, and playing Ward in the centre when BJB is more than capable of playing there was disappointing. We missed Paul Aiton and Saints deserved the win on Brian McDermott’s decisions alone.
Leeds’ unbeaten start to the season came to an end on Friday night when a late Tommy Makinson try won it for the Saints.
For the second time this season Brian McDermott failed to use all of his four interchanges with Ben Jones-Bishop not getting on to the field of play.
The worrying thing for Leeds and the rest of Super League must surely be that Saints still managed to grind out a victory against a very good Rhinos side even with nine first-team players missing either through injury or suspension.
This week’s game against Wakefield sees the start of the Challenge Cup, but by no means will it be a walk in the park.