Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils: Alex Mellor says ruck control vital for getting back to winning ways in 'massive' Super League showdown
Leeds Rhinos have been looking long and hard at reasons for their recent second half collapses and forward Alex Mellor reckons controlling the ruck holds the key.
Rhinos failed to score a point after the break in back-to-back losses to Catalans Dragons - after leading 18-8 and 18-2 at half-time - and managed only two in the second half of the win at Warrington Wolves before that.
They play host to Salford Red Devils on Friday evening and Mellor admitted: “It is tough to put your finger on why, but a little bit of our ruck control in defence has let us down.”
He explained: “We have sort of lost ruck after ruck and let them march us 80 metres downfield from kick-offs and stuff like that.
“That’s probably quite hard to see from an outsider’s perspective, but when we break the game down we really can see how much we have struggled with it.
“We have probably struggled with it in the first half as well, but we’ve just managed to get some points on them which has covered it up a little bit.
“So that needs addressing, but we’ve all been in that position before where we’ve struggled defensively or had a bad game and it’s just about putting that right.”
By contrast, Rhinos’ first half efforts have been producing enough points to win games, or at least set a platform to do that.
“I think it has always been apparent we can score tries,” Mellor added.
“Our games could end up finishing 36-14 - we have been one of those teams over the last couple of seasons.
“We have always got points in our arsenal, it is just about limiting what we keep the opposition to and obviously that will stand us in better stead to win.”
Leeds are seventh in Betfred Super League and can’t afford many more slip-ups if they are going to climb into the play-offs positions.
They have a tough run of fixtures coming up and Mellor admitted Friday is a “massive game”, but stressed they need to focus more on process rather than outcome”.
He said: “We have to put sets together and do the little things that eventually allow us to win the game.
“I think last week we struggled in so many little areas that on the whole it really hurt us.
“It is about fixing those areas up first, which will lead to the end result being a win.”
Rhinos have an outstanding record against Salford, with only five defeats in 49 Super League meetings.
They won 38-12 at AJ Bell Stadium last month, but Salford have picked up successive victories since then, including a 70-18 romp at Castleford Tigers.
“They are a very gritty side, Salford,” Mellor warned.
“They never tend to go away. They are always in it and they are tough to play against, they always come out firing and come straight down the middle at you.
“You know what you are going to get from the first set so we definitely have to be on our game when we go there.”
Rhinos are seventh in the table and the play-offs - which will involve the top six teams this year - is still within reach.
But Mellor reckons there is no point thinking that far ahead.
He stressed: “I think we’ve got to look more week on week.
“We’ve got to concentrate on winning each game.
“If you look further ahead it tends to stress you out and you put a lot of pressure on yourself.
“If you just turn up week on week, get your process right and get the result each week, after six or seven weeks you look back at the table and you are in a much better position, without really having looked at it. That is our focus.”
Rhinos made a major announcement this week when they confirmed the signing of half-back Aidan Sezer from Mellor’s previous club, Huddersfield Giants, on a two-year contract beginning next season
Sezer arrived at Giants after Mellor had left, but he played alongside Leeds’ other 2022 recruit, St Helens’ James Bentley, for Bradford Bulls.
“I think they are very good signings,” he said.
“Sezer’s record speaks for itself, he is a great player and he can definitely bring a lot to this team. Bentley’s the same, I played with him at Bradford when I was younger; he was only quite young, but how he has come on, he has turned himself into a good player.”
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