Leeds Rhinos: Mac’s men looking to pull away at top

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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HOT-RUNNING Leeds Rhinos will aim to go the rest of the season unbeaten – but coach Brian McDermott admits that probably isn’t possible.

Rhinos have won 10 of their 11 games in First Utility Super League so far, their only defeat coming last month against tonight’s opponents Warrington Wolves.

McDermott’s men are on a six-match winning run since then and victory tonight would stretch their lead at the top of the table, but McDermott insisted their approach will not change.

“We are as keen to get as far out in front as we can,” McDermott said.

“That’s a big ask – there’s some very good teams out there.

“In reality, we will probably drop another game before the end of the year, at least one game.

“That’s not me trying to not be ambitious, it’s the reality of it.

“That’s not to say we can’t aspire to win every game we play, but the reality is we probably won’t.”

McDermott added: “It’s the performance we are after, we want to keep playing well.

“I thought Castleford a few weeks ago, over Easter, was a great performance and St Helens last week probably equalled that – if not bettered it – as our best performance of the year.”

But McDermott insisted Leeds, who crushed the defending champions 41-16 at Langtree Park a week ago,

have not yet hit top form.

He said: “I don’t think I am being crazy when I say there’s some improvement in us.

“Of course there is. We conceded too many breaks, Saints came back at us and threw everything at us.

“Some of the resilience we showed and some of the determination we showed to not let them score was great, but how they started their sets, I don’t think we were in control of.

“The first half went for us and we came up with a couple of big plays defensively, but some of the clinical finishes we had and some of the offensive smart stuff we did in the first half was really pleasing.

“But then the guts we showed in the second half to defend the platform we’d laid for ourselves was as pleasing as the subtle skill we showed in the first half.”

Warrington have won just one of their six matches since the 18-6 conquering of Rhinos on March 13.

But McDermott warned: “They have had a good run against us in recent years.

“They are a good team. They are having a rough ride at the moment, but we always prepare for a good version of what’s coming to Headingley.

“I’m sure they’ll be doing everything to make sure they can perform and if they do they are a really good team and a really challenging team.

“That’s something we have to be ready for. Every team goes through a bit of a [poor] period and they’re having theirs.

“There’s no doubt they will get it together, they’ve got too many quality players there, who’ve been there, seen it and done it.

“They will have a good run soon and we’ve got to make sure it’s not against us.”

Leeds Rhinos Under-19s went down to a 28-8 home defeat at the hands of rivals Wigan Warriors last night.

The Warriors led 16-0 early in the second half, before Nathan Barker went over to reduce the gap. But the visitors remained on top with Jack Norfolk’s try proving scant consolation for Leeds.

Widnes have handed teenage forward Matt Whitley a full-time three-year contract.

The 19-year-old second-rower made his Super League debut in the Vikings’ win over Warrington at Easter.