Leeds Rhinos: Defence is key to success – Cross

Aussie recruit Ben Cross reckons scoring points won't be a problem for Leeds Rhinos this season, but they need to work on their defence.

Cross made his debut in Rhinos' 40-22 win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on New Year's Day.

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Rhinos ran in seven tries, but conceded four and Cross believes once they tighten up their tackling, their prospects for the new season will be bright.

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He said: "It was good that we had a bit of a tough period in defence.

"We had a few back-to-back sets of six against us, so that will hold us in good stead.

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"Our defence dropped off a bit in the second half, but we are still getting our combinations in defence just as much as in attack.

"I think when we get that down pat we will go really well.

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"There's plenty of talent in the team, but it's the defensive side where we really want to concentrate because we know we've got the

talent to score points.

"If we can shut teams out and suffocate them, that will go a long way towards having a tilt at the final.

"We've got enough attack in us to get ourselves out of trouble. We've got plenty of big boys and guys who have got good technique and enough whack, so if we can get our defence right that will be paramount."

Rhinos fielded a strong team against Wakefield, but were without Danny Buderus, who is now back in this country after paternity leave in Australia, Keith Senior, Ryan Hall, Kylie Leuluai, Ryan Bailey, Weller Hauraki and Chris Clarkson, as well as long-term casualties Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock.

Cross said: "I'm looking forward to seeing those guys play. Once we get our full squad back we will be strong – and some young guys got their first run on Saturday and I thought they went pretty well too."

Front-rower Cross made 95 appearances in Australia's NRL with Canberra Raiders, Melbourne Storm and Newcastle Knights, plus two for New South Wales in State of Origin and another couple for NSW's country side.

The showdown with Wakefield was his first game outside Australia and he is feeling good about his initial taste of English rugby.

The closure of Headingley Carnegie's western terrace – due to building work – created an unusual atmosphere, but Cross, pictured, insisted: "It was excellent, it was really good to get out there and have a good hit-out.

"The atmosphere was excellent. It would have been nice if the opposition fans had been behind the posts to give it to us too. I know it was only a trial game, but it was really enjoyable.

"The surface was pretty good under foot and the weather was good as well, so that made it a lot easier."

Cross – who arrived in England just before Christmas – feels better for having had a run-out.

"You don't really get your continuity with your team-mates until you've actually had a hit out with them," he said. "You learn how they play a bit and who to run off, all that sort of stuff. It makes going to training a bit easier and that will be enjoyable."

Meanwhile, coach Brian McDermott is awaiting a medical update on second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who suffered a knee injury in the game against Wakefield.

Yorkshire's Matthew Fisher. Picture: John Mallett

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