THE Challenge Cup is as important to holders Leeds Rhinos now as it was a year ago, England ace Kallum Watkins insists.
Rhinos targeted the Challenge Cup last season, in an ultimately successful bid to end a run of six successive defeats in the final and lift the trophy for the first time since 1999.
Victory over Castleford Tigers in the decider completed the set of available trophies for most of Leeds’ squad, but Watkins said that hasn’t made them any less hungry as they prepare to begin this year’s march to the arch with a sixth round tie at home to Huddersfield Giants on Saturday afternoon.
“We want to go to Wembley again and do it again,” Watkins pledged.
“The hard work starts right now and we have got a huge game coming up this weekend.
“We had a close game against them a couple of weeks ago, with the draw and we were disappointed with the second half that night. We know what Huddersfield are going to bring and we know we’ve got to be good going into that game.”
Watkins admitted it will be a tough week in training for Rhinos, following the 38-24 loss at Widnes Vikings two days ago.
“Going into Saturday, there’s a lot of work to do I think,” he said. “We were disappointed with the result on Sunday and, especially in the second half, we let ourselves down.
“The first half wasn’t the best, probably for both sides. They would have been happy going into half-time, but we knew we had to do a lot of things better. At times we did, but at the certain stages when we needed to improve, we didn’t do it.”
Less than a month ago Rhinos seemed well on course to finish top of the table after going six points clear. Since then they have failed to win in three matches, losing to Warrington Wolves and Widnes and drawing at Huddersfield, but Watkins insisted they haven’t put their cue on the rack.
“People can say that,” he said. “But when you are top you have other teams chasing after you, wanting to get to the top and chasing to try to get into the top-eight as well.
“Teams are getting better. At the start of the season you get an indication of where you are and I think many teams have done that, worked on things and improved. We played Widnes at home and put some points on them, but we went there and they turned up, which they do at home. We’ve got to give a lot of credit to Widnes and how they played. They were very, very good, they’ve got a lot of good players and they are a dangerous team.”
Rhinos centre Joel Moon has been cautioned by the RFL match review panel for making a dangerous throw on Chris Clarkson in the first minute of Sunday’s game.