Leeds Rhinos Jury: Derby day is the perfect stage for Rhinos to impress
Our YEP Jury have their say on the victory over Salford and tonight's derby at Castleford.
The general consensus amongst the fans seems to fall into one of two categories: those just happy for the two points earned against Salford, and those not so happy with how they were gained.
I believe in both, truthfully. This time last year we hadn’t even won our first game of the season, never mind a second win. Still, the shadow of last year’s problems still seems to plague the Rhinos. We can attack well throughout until that crucial last tackle, then it seems we struggle to complete and pick up points.
In honesty the defence is the biggest difference from last year and I continue to be impressed by Ashton Golding’s work. He’s really stepped it up this season.
I look at the other fixtures from the last Friday and it strikes me that other clubs certainly have the ability to complete sets and rack up a few points.
Although, the defence is obviously a key component in a game, surely scoring tries is equally as important an aspect to work on.
Looking forward to Castleford tonight, I really hope that Leeds don’t just sit back behind a wall of defending. Castleford have shown themselves to be a strong attacking team this year, scoring some impressive tries already. I really hope that the Rhinos can match that aspect and show just what we can do.
We have world class wingers, plenty of fresh talent and a point to prove. I want to see some amazing tries from Leeds this week.
We can’t talk about this game and not bring up the elephant in the room, Zak Hardaker.
He seems to have settled well into the Tigers and that presents a new and frankly exciting challenge. How both he and the Rhinos react to being on opposing ends of the field, will be intriguing.
Still, we can’t just focus on Hardaker, we also have to look at Cas as a whole. A whole that includes Luke Gale. We more than have the talent in the squad to match him, so let’s do exactly that. We have a great team and this week’s game is sure to thrill.
The Salford game was reminiscent of that scene in the ‘Rocky’ film, where both boxers fall over and whoever got up first was the winner.
Luckily, Leeds were in the right place to snatch the decisive score before spectre of a drop goal contest came to fruition. Salford’s Robert Lui, who was linked with Leeds at the end of last season, proved he was a handful all evening and it goes to show what can be achieved with a mobile half-back pulling the strings and putting runners in to wide-open gaps.
This week’s game is perhaps the biggest test of the season so far, against an in-form Castleford who have never needed much incentive to raise their game against their big-city neighbours. There’s also the added spice of a certain ex-Leeds player in their ranks too.
Injuries too are now starting to bite with the Loiners and it is likely that a couple of last week’s first choice line-up will be unavailable tonight, as well as a couple of players who have not been seen at all so far due to injury. The game presents a real acid test of the overall state of Leeds at the moment. Win it and there’s real hope of what might be achievable this year, such as a top-four finish. A narrow defeat is the reasonable expectation of most fans, whereas a ‘drubbing’ may further expose some of the team’s perceived weaknesses and may suggest that even a top-eight finish may be beyond Leeds this year.
There were signs of progress in the win over Salford last Friday.
For the first time this season the Rhinos looked creative and dangerous in attack, with Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Matt Parcell combining well and creating opportunities. The three of them look to be building a promising understanding so it will be interesting to see that develop in the coming weeks.
Leeds face a huge task in dealing with a red-hot Castleford tonight. The Tigers are a worrying prospect on current form and although the Rhinos are improving, they are still a long way off the levels that Daryl Powell’s men have reached. I wouldn’t write Leeds off but, unfortunately, I think Castleford will take the derby spoils for the fifth successive time.
Moving forward. Another win, albeit a controversial one. Leeds showed some signs of improvement. The defence was still strong and the kicking game was much improved. The Rhinos are going to have to step up in every department to stop the likes of Luke Gale and Zak Hardaker tonight at Castleford.
Three games in, two wins, one narrow defeat; all the games have been very tight as our points difference of a mere plus-seven attests. Improvements have been noticeable game by game, albeit slight.
All teams seem to be having difficulty in coming to terms with the tightening up of the play the ball rules. Leeds are no exception and hopefully they will be able to cut out these gift penalties in future.
Grit and determination along with no little skill saw Leeds home against Salford. They will need to raise their game a great deal against a resurgent Castleford tonight. The continuing good form of Jimmy Keinhorst has been one of the highlights so far, his ability to play anywhere, backs or forwards is an enviable asset.
Another two points were chalked up from a tough game against a Salford Red Devils side that were better than I’d thought they would be. A big worry ahead is that the injuries are already creeping up, surely not another bad year! Into Castleford we roll, to face the form team.