Leeds Rhinos need to get better at dark arts says coach Rohan Smith after St Helens Challenge Cup loss

Leeds Rhinos need to get better at rugby league’s dark arts, coach Rohan Smith reckons.
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Speaking after yesterday’s (Friday’s) 20-6 Betfred Challenge Cup defeat by St Helens, Smith let his frustration show at the speed of the game. Rhinos players appeared increasingly upset at Saints’ tactics around the ruck and the coach feels things have slipped back to how they were last year.

In reply to a question in his post-match press conference, Smith said: “There was a concern in pre-season there’d be a crackdown and there was, but now people are back to rolling the ball through their legs. I don’t think we got a set restart in the game. If that rule exists, how is that?

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Offside matters sometimes, then other times it doesn’t. It’s like a discretionary penalty all the time. I had concerns last week [that] the number of flops escalated, not just in our game; markers standing next to each other again - all the things that were spoken about have gradually, or not so gradually, regressed.

Referee Chris Kendalll explains a decision to Leeds Rhinos' Brodie Croft, James Bentley and Lachie Miller. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Referee Chris Kendalll explains a decision to Leeds Rhinos' Brodie Croft, James Bentley and Lachie Miller. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Referee Chris Kendalll explains a decision to Leeds Rhinos' Brodie Croft, James Bentley and Lachie Miller. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“But what can you do? I haven’t spoken about it to our players, we’ve got to get used to it and we’ve just got to join them. We’ve got to get better at flops, get more consistent at being offside.”

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Saturday’s defeat extended Rhinos’ record losing run in the Challenge Cup to four games and they still haven’t won since the 2020 triumph at Wembley. Leeds return to Super League action at Castleford Tigers on Thursday in what is a big game for both teams.

“There’s a lot of hurt people in the dressing room,” Smith added. “That aspect of what we wanted to accomplish this year has slipped away. It is disappointing, but all our focus now is on one competition so we’ll dust off and go again next week.”

Harry Newman is congratulated after scoring for Leeds Rhinos against St Helens. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Harry Newman is congratulated after scoring for Leeds Rhinos against St Helens. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Harry Newman is congratulated after scoring for Leeds Rhinos against St Helens. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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Smith switched Paul Momirovski from his regular centre role to the right-wing, with Luis Roberts dropping to the bench and not being used. Momirovski was in a protective boot after the game and the coach said: “He got a bit of an ankle [injury], he finished the game okay, he just got it jammed a couple of times. We’ll see how he is on Monday.”