Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhinos: Mac’s happy as play-offs loom

CONFIDENT: Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
CONFIDENT: Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
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Champions Leeds Rhinos are in good nick going into their final game before the play-offs.

That’s the claim from coach Brian McDermott as his side prepare to end their regular Stobart Super League campaign away to Huddersfield Giants tomorrow.

“We are pretty confident about where we are,” said McDermott, whose team had lost back-to-back matches before last weekend’s win over Salford City Reds.

“We would have liked to finish higher up the table than we are going to, but it is almost like the season starts from here.

“I wouldn’t say we have got a massive amount of momentum behind us, but we aren’t lacking it either.

“We aren’t hoping or wishing for anything and I think we are in good nick.”

McDermott admits it is crucial Rhinos go into the play-offs with some good form behind them.

They have lost three of their last six matches in all competitions, but the coach felt last weekend’s 46-12 thrashing of Salford City Reds was a step in the right direction.

“Our performance is hugely important,” he said. “We want to perform on Sunday and to play well and there were good signs last week: Kevin [Sinfield]’s kicking game, our chase, how we defended them near our line and our discipline.”

Finishing positions are still mathematically up for grabs, but the most likely scenario is Rhinos will end up fifth on the ladder – the position from which they went on to win the title last year.

Leeds could still climb a place to fourth if Catalan Dragons lose at home to Bradford Bulls today or drop down one to sixth should they slip-up catastrophically tomorrow and Hull record a big win over visitors Castleford Tigers this evening.

Rhinos have a better for and against than Catalan, so a Bulls win in France would open the door to fourth place.

McDermott’s side also have a points difference advantage of 136 over Hull so even a defeat at the recently renamed John Smith’s Stadium should see them hang on to their current position.

The coach reckons that sets up an intriguing next few weeks.

“We are probably going to finish fifth,” McDermott accepted. “Because of points difference I don’t think we’ll finish any lower than that. We could still go up to fourth, but that is a long shot.

“We are probably going to play the team who are eighth in the first round of the play-offs - then the winner of that one will play the loser of one versus four as their place.

“There’s a few permutations. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

* Rhinos academy Under-18s crashed to a heavy 58-22 home defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Giants at Stanningley.

Leeds’ points came courtesy of tries for stand-off Louis Nichol, prop Ben Finder, loose forward Matty Blake and fellow forward Mason Tonks. Nichol also kicked three goals.

Former Leeds Rhinos hooker Ben Kaye has signed a new one-year deal with Co-op Championship league leaders’ shield winners Featherstone Rovers.

Forward James Lockwood who joined the club from Dewsbury Rams for the 2012 season has also penned a new one-year deal.

Lockwood has been a consistent performer making 27 appearances scoring three tries in his first season at the club has signed a new one year contract.

On signing the contract James Lockwood said “I’m really happy to be staying at Featherstone Rovers. It was an easy decision to make as I have really enjoyed my first season at the club. It’s a fantastic club and under the guidance of Daryl Powell and Ryan Sheridan I’m really looking forward to 2013.”

Featherstone Rovers Head Coach Daryl Powell said “I am really pleased to retain Lockwood at Featherstone Rovers for next year. He has grown with every game over the season and has been a great addition to our pack. He is a tireless worker both with and without the ball and is a quality bloke who is hugely respected within the Changing Room.

Formally of Leeds Rhinos, Hooker Ben Kaye has been ever present in the team since signing from Harlequins in 2010 and has also signed a new one year contract. On signing the contract Ben Kaye said “I’m over the moon about signing a new deal to stay at Rovers. I’m really enjoying my time at the club and I’m delighted that Daryl has shown faith in handing me a new contract.”

On Ben’s new contract, Daryl Powell said “Ben is our team enthuser who is an absolute delight to coach, his attacking game is growing all the time and in defence he is awesome. I know the players will be just as happy as I am that Ben has signed again as he is so well respected amongst the group. I look forward to working with Ben again next season.”

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