THERE WILL be no Wembley appearance for Leeds Rhinos this year. Here are five talking points from their 43-24 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final drubbing by Hull.
1: Leeds weren’t good enough, not by a long way. They competed well in the first half, but the second was a rout as the black and whites took full control. It wasn’t the first time this season Rhinos have lost their way after the interval and, as games get tighter in the Super-8s, that could prove a costly flaw. In the past it has looked as though Hull didn’t have the knowhow to beat Leeds, but on this occasion they knew exactly what Rhinos were going to do and how to combat it. It is a concern that what were weaknesses months ago – vulnerability under kicks and a lack of pace among them – still are now.
2: Rhinos are still in a strong position to go on and reach the Grand Final. They are second in the table and Hull - who are three points behind - have Wembley on their minds. It has been a much better season than was expected in February and much of the criticism Rhinos have received since the semi-final, which was a poor performance, is over the top. But that said, Rhinos have been are too inconsistent this year and don’t look like a team regularly capable of reaching and winning finals. A decision will soon have to be made as to whether to continue on the current course, which has been successful in the past, or go for a major change of direction.
3: It seems Tom Briscoe needs some time out of the team to work on his form and confidence. The problem is how to do that when there’s no reserve grade and he’s not eligible to play on dual-registration for Featherstone Rovers in the Qualifiers?
4: The 34-0 defeat at Wigan in Rhinos’ final game of the Super League season – without nine players who faced Hull – now looks like two points wasted.
5: A positive: Kallum Watkins’ goal kicking.