Leeds Rhinos: JP looking to go out on a high note

Jamie Peacock
Jamie Peacock
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CASTLEFORD TIGERS are ideal opponents for a Leeds Rhinos team trying to get back on track, according to Jamie Peacock.

Rhinos will go into tonight’s home derby on the back of successive defeats, 32-16 at home against St Helens and 46-16 away to Catalans Dragons just five days ago.

Leeds have dropped well below the standards set in their earlier seven-match winning run and Peacock admits they will have to improve to have any hope of staying top of the table and winning the league leaders’ shield.

“The performances have been disappointing in the last two games, as much as the result,” Peacock said.

“It is about ourselves turning our performances around and there’s no better way to do that than against a team who beat us at home the last time we played them, in a derby.”

Tigers led 18-0 early on in the previous meeting, at Headingley three months ago.

Rhinos got back on level terms with 10 minutes remaining, but a Liam Finn drop goal and Denny Solomona’s late try, converted by Luke Gale, secured a famous win for the visitors.

Peacock insisted: “We don’t owe them, but when a team beats you it’s always in the back of your mind.

“Next time you meet them you want to square it up.

“We definitely want to do that.

“We realise it is a big local derby and I want to finish my last game against Cas with a win.

“The lads are keen to play well.

“You want to get back out there playing as soon as possible when you get embarrassed like we did last week, so the game can’t come soon enough for us.”

Tigers have lost their last three fixtures, away to Catalans and Huddersfield Giants and at home against St Helens and are out of contention for the top-four and a semi-final place.

But last Saturday in Perpignan was a painful lesson in what can happen, even against a team with nothing to play for on the table.

And Peacock has played Tigers enough times to know two away wins over Leeds would make it a successful year as far as many at Cas are concerned.

“They are a good side,” Peacock said.

“Daryl [Powell] coaches a good team, they have got some great players in there who have had good seasons so far this year and they’ve been unlucky to miss out on the four.

“If you look at what they spend compared to the clubs in and around them, in that respect they have been good this year.

“But they wanted to get into the four. They have got lofty ambitions and they have failed in that.

“It is a local derby and they’ll see it as a good end to the season if they finish with two wins, one of them against Leeds, but we are going to put a stop to that.”

Meanwhile, Peacock admitted he is “a bit embarrassed” by the attention being paid to his looming retirement.

Tonight will be his penultimate game at Headingley and Rhinos have commissioned a song to celebrate his playing career, which will be performed on the pitch by Alistair Griffin before kick-off.

“When you play in a team sport, for the attention to be strongly on individuals is probably not what you are used to,” Peacock said.

“You win and lose as a team. I do understand there’s some reasons [for the attention] because my career is coming to an end.

“I am incredibly grateful to the club and to Alistair for doing it.

“I think it’s one I will sit back in a few years and think ‘wow, that’s amazing to have that done’.

“The song is fantastic, but right here and now it is a little bit strange and a bit weird, to be honest.”

Kylie Leuluai and Kevin Sinfield are also bowing out at the end of the season, which has taken some of the focus, outside the club, off what Rhinos are trying to achieve.

“It brings its own pressure and it has been, at times, difficult to deal with,” Peacock conceded.

“But I just try to focus on playing well for the team.

“It has been a little bit different for the last few weeks, but different in a good way.”

Peacock is adamant he does not want his teammates to draw motivation from his own desire to end on a high.

“The focus is just among the group to finish well,” he said.

“I don’t think it is about the three of us having a fairytale ending.

“We just want to play as well as we possibly can and achieve what this group can achieve.

“We realise there’s some great teams out there as well, all striving to achieve the same goal.

“They key for us is to start playing well again.

“Our effort needs to pick up and we are going to do that against Castleford.”

Peacock has a maximum of four competitive games left: tonight and the Super-8s finale at Huddersfield a week tomorrow, plus a play-off semi-final and – he hopes – the title decider at Old Trafford.

“It does come into your mind,” he admitted.

“But I am just trying to give it my best shot when I get out there.”