Leeds Rhinos’ confidence remains solid ahead of Hull KR Super League play-off decider
EMERGING FORWARD Jarrod O’Connor is confident Leeds Rhinos will bounce back in tomorrow’s must-win clash with Hull KR.
Rhinos will qualify for the play-offs if they win their final game of the regular Betfred Super League season, or seventh-placed Castleford Tigers lose to Warrington Wolves tonight.
Leeds are on the back of a 40-6 drubbing at St Helens six days ago, but - after being hit hard by injuries and Covid this year, as well as a series of suspensions - O’Connor reckons being in sixth at this stage of the campaign is credit to the spirit in the squad.
“Every time we’ve had a big defeat, we seem to have bounced back well,” he pointed out.
“Sometimes we’ve not backed up performances and we’ve got to do that now, because it’s knockout games, but I think we’ll be good.”
Though last Friday was Rhinos’ heaviest defeat of the campaign, O’Connor insisted it has not damaged morale in the camp.
“We talked after the game about not forgetting about it, but just moving on and not letting our heads go down,” the 20-year-old former Widnes academy player said.
“This week is a must-win to guarantee a play-off spot, so we are just focused on that. We always knew we needed to win one of our last two games and we’re not going to let last week’s defeat get us down.”
Rhinos will obviously need to start better tomorrow, after trailing 28-0 after half an hour against Saints. But they were outscored only 12-6 over the final 50 minutes and that gave them something positive to build on.
“We spoke at half time and said we could either give up now or make sure we try and get back into the game,” O’Connor recalled.
“I thought we did that, I thought everyone looked like they worked a bit harder, but obviously we need to do that from the off this time and not just leave it until the second half.
“We will keep our heads high because we know if we let it (last week’s result) get to our confidence it’s not going to help us.”
On a personal note, this has been a breakthrough year for O’Connor, who made his debut last September. He said: “I’ve played 12 now and that’s only going to benefit me going into next year.
“Everything’s helping and playing against the best teams in Super League will benefit me.”
That includes last week’s difficult 80 minutes. O’Connor added: “I am going to take little things from that.
“Obviously it was disappointing, but you can always learn.
“Sometimes you can learn more about the team in games like that than when you actually win.”
O’Connor is among a posse of young players who have proved this season they can hold their own at Super League level.
He said: “We’ve all stepped up and known the role we’ve got to do.
“I think the effort’s there, it’s just a case of getting more and more experience and in a few years, with everyone coming through, I’m sure it’ll be great.”