Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors - consistency is the aim now says Cameron Smith
They are doing it tough now, but consistency will make Leeds Rhinos a good team, Cameron Smith reckons.
Rhinos’ makeshift side - missing 12 players and with three forwards starting in the backs - dug deep in difficult circumstances against Super League champions St Helens in the Betfred Challenge Cup five days ago, after having Zane Tetevano sent-off early in the second half.
They hit back to within two points, after going 20-6 behind and the game was only settled when Saints grabbed a converted try in the final moments.
Rhinos take on last year’s other Grand Finalists at Emerald Headingley tonight and Smith admitted a short turnaround to such a big game is not ideal, particularly after the huge effort Rhinos put in last weekend.
On the other hand, Leeds’ patched-up team showed tremendous spirit and desire against Saints and Smith insisted: “We have spoken about being consistent with it - I think that’s the main thing for us now.
“We have shown how tough we can play and how resilient we can be in tough periods, but it is important now we can do that week on week and get that consistency.”
Rhinos have yet to field anything like their first-choice 17 this year, but Kyle Eastmond is set to make his debut this evening and a couple of last week’s casualties could return.
Smith, who filled in at scrum-half role - was among those having play out of position last week. Morgan Gannon and King Vuniyayawa both made their debut and Sam Walters and Jarrod O’Connor came in for their first game of this year.
“All pre-season we spoke about how things aren’t going to go right for us at some points in the season,” Smith recalled.
“For people to play out of position, that is just part and parcel of our team, to make sure we can do our job for the team.
“You put your personal preference for where you want to play to the side. Obviously lads who have stepped in, like Rhyse [Martin] playing half and Alex Mellor playing in the centre, have shown they can still do a job and we can change our gameplan on the run, even if we have to simplify things to make things work.
“That just shows the strength in depth we have got in the squad and when we get the players back, who actually do play in those positions, I am excited to play.”
With the likes of centres Konrad Hurrell and Harry Newman, winger Ash Handley - last year’s Super League top try scorer - and all their senior half-backs out injured, Rhinos have a huge amount of strike power waiting on the sidelines.
“Effort and endeavour goes a long way,” Smith said.
“Regarding players coming back, we need a little bit of direction in the halves.
“Galey [Luke Gale] has to come back so we can finish our sets a bit better, on our terms.
“That’s the thing we missed last weekend.
“With me and Rhyse playing in the halves, we are not natural in-play kickers, that’s the area we needed to tidy up the most and the people coming back will give us that option.”
Smith has filled in at half-back during games, but last week was only his second start there.
He said: “I like to play as a ball-playing 13 and I spoke all week about doing that, but it is pretty hard when you have to think about the shapes we’ve got to throw at the team.
“If I was playing middle, my job would be simplified and I’d focus on the middle part of the field, instead of being everywhere.
“It doesn’t really change things that much for me, I have just got to think about my game a little bit differently, but I am happy to play there if that’s what the team needs.
“We probably just needed a bit more direction at the weekend.”
Rhinos have not beaten Wigan in Betfred Super League since August, 2017, though they did come out on top in last year’s Challenge Cup semi-final.
Smith warned: “Wigan are always tough, it is always a tough game, but we will be approaching it in the exact same way - just focusing on us and making sure we can get consistency week-in and week-out.
“Obviously we didn’t have a great result against Castleford [two weeks ago], but there were plenty of positives to take from that and if we get this consistency, we will be a good team.”
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