Leeds Rhinos boss says Mikolaj Oledzki needs more pack support in 'pivotal' Castleford Tigers derby

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Leeds Rhinos are preparing for a “pivotal” afternoon in their season when Castleford Tigers visit AMT Headingley on Saturday.

Rhinos’ 26-6 success at Castleford in March was their fourth victory in the opening six Betfred Super League rounds, but they’ve won just two of their half dozen games since. With sixth-placed Salford Red Devils hosting London Broncos on Sunday, defeat to Tigers could leave Rhinos, who are seventh, four points adrift of the play-offs at the midway point.

However, the derby begins a run of four successive matches against teams below them on the ladder and victory may set them up for a much better second half of the campaign, coach Rohan Smith reckons. He insisted: “A good strong performance can really build some belief and confidence.

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“There’s still belief in the group, but it’s probably about building confidence. Having recent examples of good form is always the best form to reflect on. This is a really pivotal game for us to play well and get a good result, then freshen up and get some work done next week and build into the next block of the season after that.”

Mikolaj Oledzki has stepped forward to lead Leeds Rhinos' pack, but needs more support his coach Rohan Smith says. Picture by Bruce RollinsonMikolaj Oledzki has stepped forward to lead Leeds Rhinos' pack, but needs more support his coach Rohan Smith says. Picture by Bruce Rollinson
Mikolaj Oledzki has stepped forward to lead Leeds Rhinos' pack, but needs more support his coach Rohan Smith says. Picture by Bruce Rollinson
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Smith, whose side have no game next weekend, admitted a huge improvement is needed from their 40-10 hammering at St Helens last time out. “We were really disappointed with how last week’s second half went,” he reflected.

“We thought we attacked the game really well in the first half and there was a lot of confidence and positivity among the group at half-time. We started the second half poorly and, aside from a little patch, didn’t really recover. We want to take some action and show we can play better for longer.”

One area for improvement is up front. Smith accepted: said: “Most of our go-forward has been limited by our lack of detail with the ball at times. The more you hold the ball, the more metres you get to make so that’s certainly a priority for us.

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Leeds Rhinos' Paul Momirovski - left, who will return from injury this weekend - and Andy Ackers thank the fans after their win at Castleford Tigers in March. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos' Paul Momirovski - left, who will return from injury this weekend - and Andy Ackers thank the fans after their win at Castleford Tigers in March. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos' Paul Momirovski - left, who will return from injury this weekend - and Andy Ackers thank the fans after their win at Castleford Tigers in March. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“A couple of players definitely can do a little better there in some regards, but in the last little while we’ve seen the growth and stepping forward of Mik [Oledzki] and guys like that who have really taken it upon themselves to lead that pack as best they can. He needs some support, but we’ll take care of the ball better and get some more metres.”

In contrast to Leeds, Tigers - who were without a point after the sides’ Easter meeting - have won three and drawn one of their last six games. Smith warned: “They have played some really good stuff in recent times and they’ve got some different players in their group to the last time we played them.

“We know what the Leeds-Cas game brings; inevitably it’s a hard contest and everyone wants those bragging rights. We respect what they are doing and we will be ready for their best.”

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