'All still to play for' insists Leeds Rhinos' Cameron Smith as preparations begin for St Helens clash
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A win would have lifted Leeds to sixth in Betfred Super League and Smith admitted it was a chance missed, but he insists there is still everything to play for with eight rounds remaining in the regular season.
After a break for the Betfred Challenge Cup semi-finals, Rhinos’ visit to St Helens on Friday is their first chance to get back on the horse after the Hull KR disappointment.
They also went into the last Cup layoff on the back of a loss, at Wakefield Trinity and that was followed by wins over Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves and Salford Red Devils.
Smith said: “We stew on it as players, because we care that much, but we spoke about a four-week block and we won three out of those four games.
“I feel like we have made some positive steps forward in terms of where we were before this four-week block.
“Even though we came up short [last week], we have made some pretty good improvements which I feel we will be better for.”
Rhinos, who lost stand-off Blake Austin to a head injury, trailed 16-6 after half an hour against the Robins, but were level soon after the interval and dominated most of the second stanza without being able to add more points.
They didn’t attempt a drop goal and Smith conceded: “There were periods in the game when we could have put it to bed, but we just didn’t take those chances.
“I suppose there’s a lesson there in game-management. We lost Blake at an important time, but it didn’t have to get to that - if we had kept hold of the ball and minimised errors I think we would have come out on the right side of the result.”
Rhinos remain just two points outside the play-offs, despite slipping a place on the table.
Friday’s trip to Saints is another huge fixture, but Smith stressed: “Every game is important. There’s only six points between third and ninth so it’s still all to play for.
“There’ll still be other results that go our way and we will end up with more wins under our belt. We are not looking too far into the future; last week was a chance missed, but it was a lesson for us.”
Rhinos are at home to second-placed Leigh Leopards nine days after the Saints game, then have another layoff because of Challenge Cup final weekend.
That’s not ideal, but Smith reckons the opportunity to rest is important at this time of year. He said: “We’ve put in a lot of hard work over the last few weeks so it’s important for the boys to put their feet up.
“We’ll look at the next block and go from there. We’ll be getting some people back soon - Harry Newman is not far off - and that’s a bonus.
“We’d rather still be in the Challenge Cup, but the breaks have come at a good time for people to rest up and those who need to put some work in can do that.”