'Done some good things': Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith hails Derrell Olpherts after win v Catalans Dragons
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Olpherts came off the bench to score a crucial try in Rhinos’ 32-22 win over Catalans Dragons, while O’Connor was named man of the match and Johnson made his comeback from injury late in the game.
Olpherts had a tough evening against his former club Castleford Tigers in Rhinos’ previous match, but Smith insisted: “Derrell has done well.”
He said “He has had a couple of moments he’d like back, but he’s done a lot of really good things.”
Rhyse Martin was switched from the pack to centre to counter Catalans’ powerful outside-backs and Smith added: “When Harry [Newman] got sin-binned I needed to make sure we had suitable cover on the edge when we were a man short.
“Derrell came on, had good energy and his try was a genuine, outside-back’s quality finish. It was a big play in the game so I am glad for Derrell. He has made a great contribution to the start of our year.”
Kruise Leeming’s transfer request has left O’Connor, 21 and 22-year-old Johnson as Rhinos’ only senior hookers.
“Jarrod played really well,” Smith said of O’Connor’s effort against Catalans. “He had a couple of moments he’d like back, which is probably uncharacteristic - a couple of defensive moments - but overall, he is just a great teammate.
“He wants to play for the other people, he wants to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. He is selfless, he’s fit, he competes hard and he’s starting to trust himself a bit more and backing himself.
“He is a tremendous kid, he has got plenty to work on and he knows Corey Johnson’s right on his heels.
“Corey is a more natural and experienced dummy-half, those guys are good mates and they want to challenge each other.”
Johnson, a former England academy hooker, underwent back surgery last autumn and played just two comeback games, for Rhinos’ reserves and with Bradford Bulls on dual-registration, before last Saturday.
“He’s a player,” Smith said. “He knows how to play the game and he knows how I want him to try and play.
“He did some great things last year in very tough conditions - he had some back issues and was really hampered by his body.
“He is lean and fit now, it is very early days for him, but he is a real prospect for the short-term and long-term. He battled hard to get that opportunity [on Saturday] and it will be the first of many more.”