Leeds Rhinos v Hull FC: James Donaldson says discipline is vital in crunch Magic Weekend clash

After five sin-binnings in their past three games, forward James Donaldson says Leeds Rhinos are on yellow alert for Saturday's Magic Weekend meeting with Hull in Newcastle.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:45 pm

None of the recent cards led to a subsequent ban and Donaldson reckons some of them were harsh, but stressed Rhinos have to eliminate the risk by steering clear of high tackles, dangerous throws and on-field skirmishes.

“It’s a big thing we speak about in the team, discipline,” Donaldson stressed.

“It hasn’t been good enough and we need to hold each other more accountable, because it is costing us massively.

Monday's defeat at Wakefield left Donaldson, right and his Rhinos teammates shellshocked. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“At this time in the season we need as many players on the field as possible.”

The clash between Betfred Super League’s fifth- and seventh-placed clubs will have a huge bearing on the race to qualify for the play-offs and Donaldson warned: “It’s a massive game for us.

“Obviously we need to get back on track after a disappointing game against Wakefield.

“We’ve addressed the problems and now we’re focusing on [today] and coming up with a big performance and definitely an improved one as a team.”

Monday’s 20-13 loss to Trinity ended a three-game winning run and came five days after a 14-0 victory at Wigan Warriors. Donaldson admitted: “It just seems like when we get a good win we follow it up with a bad loss.

“It’s really disappointing because we showed a lot of guts at Wigan and then to throw that up at Wakey was really disappointing. I think our attitude and the way we approach the game has got to be a lot different this week.

“It’s attitude and willingness to work hard for each other - we really let ourselves down in that part of the game; we worked hard for each other at Wigan and that’s the total opposite to what we did at Wakey. If we take shortcuts, you get found out eventually and we did [on Monday].”

To an extent, Rhinos were let off the hook as the three teams immediately below them on the table - Castleford Tigers, Hull and Hull KR - also lost.

Leeds have the latter two of those still to play, either side of a trip to St Helens and Donaldson reckons Monday’s loss has put “massive pressure on us”.

He said: “We had an opportunity to put ourselves in a good position, but now it’s time to bring our best rugby every single week for the next three games.

“It is in our hands and if we want to make it happen we’ve got to do it within the team and work hard for each other and cover each other’s back.

“It has been a tough season, with things that have gone on with Covid, bans and injuries, but I think we’ve got a real opportunity ahead of us to do something really good this season.”

Donaldson, who has switched between playing in the middle and on and edge, as well as starting and being a substitute, played the full 80 minutes against Wakefield and stressed: “It has been one of those seasons, but I am happy to play wherever for the team.

“Of course I want to play as many minutes as possible and I do enjoy playing on an edge, but it does take some getting used to.

“It is a lot different to playing in the middle, but I’m grateful for any game time I’m given and I’ll give my best no matter what position I play.”

Hull’s shock defeat at Salfordon Monday makes them more dangerous, according to Donaldson.

He said: “They have probably done exactly the same thing we’ve done, their attitude probably wasn’t right, but I know when they turn up at Magic their attitude will be a lot different going into this game. Hopefully so will ours. It is building up to be a great contest.”

Donaldson is a Magic veteran, having played in the event at Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool and described it as “a brilliant concept”, though he believes it could be made even better.

He said: “I would like to experience a lot more different stadiums, rather than the same one each year. It is great to see all the fans getting together and creating an atmosphere, but if I was to change something, I’d make it one versus two, three versus four, five versus six...

“That would make it ultra-competitive and I think that would be great to see, base it on the league table from the week before. Then you play a team that’s around you and it makes the game that extra bit special.”

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