Good times ahead - Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar cautiously optimistic after Challenge Cup demolition of Hull KR

Leeds Rhinos are "pointing in the right direction", coach Richard Agar reckons.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 19th September 2020, 10:58 am

Leeds booked a semi-final place in the Coral Challenge Cup with a 48-18 win over Hull KR in their opening tie of this year's competition.

They are are also fourth in Betfred Super League, which will mean qualification for the play-offs if they can stay there.

Agar admitted his team “still have a way to go” before they compete consistently against the “benchmark teams”, but insisted: “I’d also like to think we are pointing in the right direction.”

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Rhyse Martin scores Rhinos' eighth and final try in the 48-18 Cup thrashing of Hull KR. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

He reflected; “We’ve had a couple of disappointments this year, notably when we came back off Covid.

“Against Saints and Wigan we had two poor performances and, in particular against Saints, we just failed to compete.

“It shows we have got a level to step up to consistency- and performance-wise against those teams if we want to start picking trophies up.

“But at the same time, we feel we are on that journey.

Ash Handley scores Rhinos' second try. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“We hate the word ‘rebuild’, but we feel we are striving towards that.

“I know as a coach I have probably got a certain amount of time to get this club competing at that level, but I still think, with some of the younger talents that are emerging there are some pretty good times [ahead]."

Rhinos are through to the last four for the 18th time in 25 seasons following their third successive win in all competitions.

Rovers were blown away in the opening quarter when Leeds built a 24-0 lead.

They were 30-0 ahead at half-time and though the second half was more even, Agar had no real complaints over his team's eight-try win.

He said: “They are tricky opponents - as we’ve seen in the last two or three games they have been causing teams real problems, but I thought for 60 minutes our application to nullify their attack was very, very good.”

Agar added: “You could see and hear from the stand the talk and the organisation.

“We felt when they got some offloads they didn’t hurt us too much and we were really alive to their kicking game.

“We did a really good job and a really concentrated job on that, which was important and there were times in the first half when we were quite clinical, we turned the ball over in a controlled way and [played] some good stuff.”

Agar felt his men got “a bit untidy” following the sin-binning of Ava Seumanufagai early in the second half and were disrupted when Ash Handley was substituted with a hamstring problem.

“We probably lost some of our ability to rotate a couple of our more tired people at times when we probably needed to, but that won’t have hurt them either,” he said.

“All in all, I think given the problems they have been causing teams, we would have 100 per cent settled for that.

“There’s a couple of untidy bits our guys are annoyed with themselves about, but overall, job well done.”

Handley was taken off early in the second half, but Agar - whose side face Hull KR again in Super League on Thursday - said that was a precaution.

“It is a strain on his hamstring,” he said.

“We felt having Luke [Briscoe] on the bench and it being 30-0 at the time, we didn’t want to risk him.

“We are having issues around the Covid situation and we didn’t want to put Ash in a situation where we had to rule him out for the next week or two.”

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