Leeds Rhinos fall to Castleford Tigers as they grapple with early injury crisis
LEEDS RHINOS’ injury woes have worsened ahead of next week’s huge Betfred Challenge Cup clash with St Helens.
Including new signing Kyle Eastmond, who was judged not to be ready for his debut, nine of Rhinos’ senior squad were ruled out of yesterday’s 18-10 defeat by Castleford Tigers at Saints’ TW Stadium.
Richie Myler became the latest victim, missing the game because of a hamstring injury and coach Richard Agar confirmed he will not be available next week when Rhinos begin their defence of the trophy they won last October.
“He will miss two or three weeks,” Agar revealed. “We have nine blokes out at the moment and it goes without saying there’s a fair bit of strike and cutting edge in those people.”
Rhinos issued and then quickly deleted a Tweet before yesterday’s game which said Eastmond would play.
Their media department described the message as a “mistake” and Agar, who did not name the dual-code international in his 21-man squad, said Eastmond was not in contention.
“No, I think that would have been a little bit more dangerous,” Agar said. “If we could have done, we would - if he had been totally ready, we would.”
Eastmond could be ready for next Saturday, but Agar said none of yesterday’s other missing players will feature.
Rhinos trailed 12-0 midway through the first half, but pulled four points back before the interval and were only two adrift going into the final quarter.
“I don’t think there was much in it,” Agar said. “We didn’t start great, we didn’t turn the ball over in a controlled or competitive enough way at times, but we tried right to the end to try and snatch the game.
“It was a real odd ding-ding battle, an arm wrestle. With 20 minutes to go, at 12-10, we were right in it.
“We felt we were gaining some momentum in that, but there were certainly some momentum swings in the game around six-agains and penalties.”
Agar insisted: “I am going to credit the opposition. I thought they defended their tryline really well.
“We are missing some strike out of our team, but I think when we look back we will see a couple of opportunities we maybe should have made more of. But I was proud of our effort and it was a tough game.”
Jack Broadbent replaced Myler at full-back in his fourth Super League game and 18-year-old centre Corey Hall made his full debut, after two substitute appearances last year.
Agar said: “I thought Jack held his gloves up really well and brought a lot of energy to our team.
“It was a tough baptism for Corey and he will be disappointed with Oli Holmes’ try, at first grade level you have got to be in the right spot and make those tackles.
“He knows that, that’s all part of the learning curve. It is tough for us at the moment in terms of the guys who aren’t on the field, but Corey and Jack will be better for the experiences they are getting now.”
Tigers coach Daryl Powell was delighted with the way his side backed up their win over Warrington Wolves in round one.
“The boys have been awesome,” he said. “It was a tough game, particularly on the back of a five-day turnaround.
“Physically, I thought we battled through. I don’t think we were ever at our best with the ball, but it was pretty courageous to win the game and pretty pleasing.”
Powell added: “Two from two, I don’t think anybody expected that seeing Warrington and Leeds at the start, but we did.
“I think it has been a tough start and we have done a great job with it.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click HERE to subscribe.