LEEDS RHINOS’ regular season ended with a 34-0 defeat at Wigan Warriors.
Here are five talking points from the game.
1: Judging by social media, opinion is divided over whether Rhinos coach Brian McDermott was right to field such a below-strength team.
Apparently all 15 of the players who didn’t take part were injured to some degree, though presumably with several of them it was more a case of not being risked, rather than ruled out.
If most of them return and Rhinos beat Hull in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final, then the gamble will have paid off. Even if not, the defeat means Rhinos will play host to Wigan in the Super-8s rather than return to DW Stadium. Leeds haven’t won at Wigan since 2013. Their last home defeat to them was a year earlier.
By having already secured second place in the regular season table Rhinos had earned the right to rest players. Wigan, who face Salford in a Cup semi-final on Sunday, would probably have preferred not to field their strongest-available side, but their league position meant they had no option.
2: Rhinos have turned out stronger teams and suffered heavier beatings. At Castleford in March for example.
Physically, Leeds’ teenagers were out of their depth. They couldn’t get any go-forward and made a series of handling errors near their own line, largely due to Wigan’s superior power in the tackle.
But they never threw in the towel and the pride they showed in their own goalline was an encouraging sign for the future.
3: Jamie Jones-Buchanan is a warrior. Not many players would have got up from his huge collision with a strong-running Tony Clubb, but Leeds’ 35-year-old stand-in captain did – and made the next tackle.
4: It was the first time Rhinos had failed to score since a 42-0 defeat at Halifax in the final game of the 1998 Super League season – before five of the team at Wigan were born.
5: Brad Dwyer, who will join Rhinos next season on a two-year contract, is a good signing.
He will have to play second fiddle to Matt Parcell, but the pacy 24-year-old hooker will give Leeds impact off the bench.