Leeds Rhinos at Salford Red Devils: Rhyse Martin says 'we owe them one'

It's payback time for Leeds Rhinos.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 13th May 2022, 5:55 pm

Rohan Smith will make his debut as coach away to Salford Red Devils on Sunday in a rematch of the disastrous game that cost previous team boss Richard Agar his job.

Agar resigned eight weeks ago, three days after Leeds were beaten 26-12 at AJ Bell Stadium.

Having led 12-8, they conceded 18 points in the final 13 minutes in what the then-coach admitted was a “capitulation”.

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Rhyse Martin takes a carry in Rhinos' win over Hull KR . Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

That loss was Rhinos’ fifth in their opening six competitive games of the season.

They have played a similar number of matches since then, losing three, drawing one and winning against Toulouse Olympique and Hull KR in their last two.

And goal kicker Rhyse Martin reckons this weekend is an opportunity for Rhinos to show how far they have come under, firstly, interim-coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan and then since Smith was appointed last month.

Asked if Rhinos ‘owe Salford one’, Martin said: “100 per cent.

Ash Handley celebrates with Jack Walker after scoring against Salford in March, but their joy was short-lived. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“We have spoken about that this week, that we need to get one back on them.

“We have got to give them respect because we dominated most of that game, but they hung in there and ended up getting over us in the end.

“We are definitely going to be focusing on not letting that happen again.”

Martin described the time following the defeat at Salford - who have suffered six successive defeats since beating Leeds - as “a bit of a strange period for us”.

Rhyse Martin kicks for goal in Rhinos' defeat at Salford. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

He said: “We’ve had three coaches in a few weeks, but we are feeling very positive.

“We’ve still got a few boys not back from injury and we’ve picked up a few suspensions too, but I think as long as we keep doing what we have been doing really well - with our energy in defence and being more together as a team - that has been getting us to those wins.”

Five points from a possible eight have eased Rhinos’ relegation fears and they play two of the three teams below them in the table in the next week.

A couple more wins would lift Rhinos into contention for the play-offs and, with more than half the season still to play, Martin insists that is a realistic target.

“It is five points to the top six,” he noted.

“There’s lots of games to go and if we keep building on what we’ve been doing well, we will be in there, no doubt.”

Smith arrived in Leeds last week and has had 10 days to prepare the team for the trip to Salford.

Rhinos will be boosted by the return of several key players from injury and suspension and the new coach has pledged a visible “shift” in the way they play.

Though Rhinos have the best defensive record of any team in the bottom half of Betfred Super League, they are the competition’s lowest scorers and Smith has already made it clear he will encourage a more attacking style.

He has had only a limited number of sessions with the squad, but Martin believes he will prove a smart appointment.

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“I think he’s what we needed,” Martin said of the 41-year-old Australian, who joined Leeds from Queensland Cup champions Norths Devils.

“We needed what he is bringing to the team, where we were as a group.

“We had the passion, we always have the effort, we just needed that little fine touch, fine tune.

“I think he will give us that and he’ll be really good for a lot of the players - younger players, older players and the team itself.

“I am excited, hopefully it all comes together quite quickly.”

The proof will come at 3pm on Sunday, but Martin insisted: “I think everyone’s ready to go.”

Rhinos have not played for a fortnight and Martin said: “The week has been quite good and we are ready to play again after our last two wins.

“We just want to keep going and keep winning games and everyone’s excited.”

He also admitted the mood in the camp is much more upbeat now than the last time they travelled to AJ Bell Stadium, particularly after the 12-0 defeat of previously in-form Hull KR.

The second-rower and occasional centre said: “After the effort we’d been putting in over the last few weeks, to keep them scoreless was a big win for us and it’s good for us going forward.”