'Better for longer': Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith issues mission statement for Wigan Warriors showdown

Playing “better for longer” is Leeds Rhinos’ mission when they visit Wigan Warriors on Friday.
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The Betfred Super League clash is the first part of a double-header with Wigan who visit Headingley for a Challenge Cup sixth round tie eight days later.

After successive league losses, Rhinos could be four points adrift of the play-off spots by the end of round 12 and coach Rohan Smith insisted the cup tie can wait.

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“We have got to play well this week,” Smith stressed. “Our priority has to be all on this week, it is a really important game for our season.

Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“We know we need to improve. We need to play a bit better for a bit longer in most games.”

Smith feels Rhinos are close to an upturn in results. He added: “We’ve been in all the games.

“That’s a good starting point; it’s not where we want to be, for sure, but we have been competing in every game and the majority of our games could have gone either way.

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“We are not that far away from getting more results. We are still a way away from playing at the level we think we can, but not far away from results.

Leeds' opening try, scored by Richie Myler, third from left, was a highlight of Rhinos' performance against Salford last week, but coach Rohan Smith says they have to play better for longer. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds' opening try, scored by Richie Myler, third from left, was a highlight of Rhinos' performance against Salford last week, but coach Rohan Smith says they have to play better for longer. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds' opening try, scored by Richie Myler, third from left, was a highlight of Rhinos' performance against Salford last week, but coach Rohan Smith says they have to play better for longer. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“We are focussing on getting ourselves ready to play well against Wigan and treating each week like it is a big game, which it is.

“I have belief in this group of players, I feel we are not far away from playing well, but we need to get some results on the board as well as improve our ability to play better for longer.”

Despite the 22-12 defeat, Smith felt there was “a lot of positive stuff” in Rhinos’ performance against Salford Red Devils last week.

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“Team-wise, we played well together,” he said. “Against a team that throws a lot at you, we defended really well. We did concede two tries while we had 12 players, but aside from that we defended strongly.

Jarrod O'Connor scores  Rhinos' first try in last year's semi-final win at Wigan. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Jarrod O'Connor scores  Rhinos' first try in last year's semi-final win at Wigan. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Jarrod O'Connor scores Rhinos' first try in last year's semi-final win at Wigan. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“The mood is good, the players are full of energy and we’ve had a good week of training. We are looking forward to going to Wigan and giving our best.”

Wigan are second in the table and Smith warned: “They have been one of the stand-out teams; they’ve had a quality start to the season, they are well coached and they’ve got a good roster.

“They are playing with real confidence and clearly they will want to bounce back from last week’s result, but they came home strongly at the back end of that game and it could have gone either way. They are a quality team with plenty of threat.”

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Rhinos have happy memories of recent visits to DW Stadium. Having not won there from 2013 to 2020, they visited twice inside a month at the end of 2021 and kept the hosts scoreless both times.

Then, after a defeat early in the campaign, Rhinos recorded one of their most memorable victories when they ended Wigan’s unbeaten home record with a 20-8 success in a play-off semi-final last September.

“It was a special night,” Smith recalled. “But this is its own one and we are trying to replicate that on a smaller scale.

“It’s not a play-off game, but it’s a really important game for us. It’s important for us to play better for longer periods of the game and see if that’s good enough against one of the competition’s strongest teams.”

Rhinos’ reserves are also in action at Wigan on Friday. Their game, at Robin Park Arena, kicks-off at 5pm and admission is free.