Leeds Rhinos boss backs decision to call off game at Huddersfield Giants

Coach Richard Agar admitted Leeds Rhinos were “disappointed” not to play on Sunday, but stressed it was the right decision for spectator safety.

Sunday, 9th February 2020, 5:00 pm
Stevie Ward could be fit to face Hull KR. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Rhinos’ Betfred Super League round two fixture at Huddersfield Giants was postponed as torrential rains and strong winds from Storm Ciara lashed West Yorkshire.

Both clubs now face the headache of fitting a rearranged match into their already packed fixture schedule.

On the positive side, Rhinos captain Stevie Ward, who was due to miss the game at Huddersfield because of concussion, has a chance of being available for Friday’s home clash with Hull KR - and Leeds will have more preparation time for that match.

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Extra training time will be welcome for Konrad Hurrell. Picture by Tony Johnson.

A ‘danger to life’ alert was issued by the Met Office on Saturday, when the warning for Storm Ciara was upgraded from yellow to amber.

Though the pitch was playable, Giants held an inspection at around 11.15am on Sunday and the match was postponed shortly afterwards due to “health and safety issues surrounding the perimeter of the stadium”.

The decision was made in time to prevent fans from Leeds making the journey and Agar was in full support, despite the implications for later in the season.

He said: “We are disappointed because we were gearing up for a game.

Alex Mellor would have started against his former club. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I think the pitch was probably playable, though I am not sure the conditions would have been conducive for the game either team wanted to play.

“I am sure we could have adapted to that, but first and foremost, people’s safety is paramount.

“You have only to turn the news channels on or look online to see there’s problems around the country.

“We would never forgive ourselves if the game was on and something happened, travel en-route or anything like that, so safety first.”

Rhinos’ players were given Sunday off and Agar and his staff will tinker with preparations for Friday’s match as there will no be no need for a review session or re-hab’ on Monday.

“We will have a normal run-in to a Friday game,” he confirmed.

“We trained [on Saturday] and had a rest day [on Sunday].

“We did have a five-day turnaround, so we will change our schedule to suit that.

“We will train on Monday and Tuesday, have Wednesday off and Thursday in, which is a slight change.

“We would have done review on Monday and had Tuesday off, but it won’t impact our schedule or our preparation too much.”

Ward was not included in Rhinos’ squad for the game at John Smith's Stadium after suffering a head knock in the opening defeat by Hull a week earlier.

“With concussion he has to go through the protocols,” Agar said.

“He didn’t get through them last week so it will mean he has to pass those.

“Obviously it will give him a chance.”

The coach confirmed centre Konrad Hurrell, who was also concussed against Hull, had been cleared to play at Huddersfield.

He added: “Konny went through the protocols, but he had a little bit less training than normal.

“It will give him better preparation into the next game.

“We’d have only had Stevie missing from last week, so Alex Mellor would have come into the starting lineup and Ava [Seumanufagai] would have come into the 17 for Stevie.”

Ward is the only player unavailable for Sunday who could feature this weekend.

“Alex Sutcliffe [broken hand] has his pot off next week,” Agar said.

“Kruise Leeming (knee) is back up and running and making good progress and Tom Briscoe (knee reconstruction) is probably a month or so away.”

A new date for the round two fixture has not yet been announced. There is no free weekend in the Super League calendar, but a Coral Challenge Cup round would be a possibility if both teams fail to reach the semi-finals.

Agar said: “It is what it is.

“We will have to squeeze it in at some point later in the year.

“We will have to try and find a suitable date, which could be tricky, but safety for fans is the main thing.”

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “The rules state the next available date, but there isn’t an obvious one.

“It is up to Huddersfield, they will have to decide what they see as their first available date and then work with us and Super League to see how that fits in.”