Our YEP Jury have their say on Leeds Rhinos’ narrow defeat at St Helens and the task ahead at Huddersfield
Rhinos fans were taken on a rollercoaster ride from the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy against St Helens.
After the first 10 minutes I thought we were in for a mauling, but introducing Liam Sutcliffe in place of Beau Falloon completely changed the game. Leeds started playing with drive and purpose and looked far more creative than in previous weeks.
Both teams were desperate for the points and this made for very open play with the ball moving literally from one end of the pitch to the other.
It was a fantastic spectacle for the neutral rugby fan as the score see-sawed in favour of one team and then another.
On the whole it was a much better team performance by Leeds, and supporters were left wondering whether without injuries to Carl Ablett, Brett Delaney and Zak Hardaker, ruling them all out in the second half, the result could, and should, have been different.
I believe strongly that we have made huge strides forward in the last two weeks.
The young players seem more settled and are delivering – Jordan Lilley had another great kicking game and deserves his place on this alone.
But It was Rob Burrow and JJB who were the heroes of the night.
Jonesy played the full 80 minutes and made 42 punishing tackles, whilst Robbie caused problems in attack, making a career-high 207 metres with four clean breaks.
Looking forward, Leeds have back-to-back away games at Huddersfield followed by a home encounter with Castleford.
The Super League game on Friday is a MUST win. It would stretch the narrow lead we have over bottom-of-the-league Giants, and keep us in touch with the elusive eighth place.
The following week we return to Huddersfield to defend our Challenge Cup crown and, with our league position looking precarious, this might be the only silverware we have a realistic chance of retaining in 2016 and therefore a strong performance is called for – for the supporters as much as the players.
Although the fans are wanting to see the return of the likes of Danny McGuire, Ryan Hall and Adam Cuthbertson, I do wonder if some players have been selected ahead of time, when they are not fully fit, and this has resulted in further injuries.
Last Friday Leeds attacked better than they have all year, but more poor defence meant they left with nothing.
For the first time this year Leeds looked dangerous with the ball, particularly when Burrow and Sutcliffe were on the field. Handley and Lilley impressed again and the amount of game time they’re getting puts Leeds in a good position for the future – although presently Leeds need experience to finish the close matches they have struggled with this season. This Friday we face Huddersfield which, weeks ago, would have looked an almost guaranteed victory, but recently they have found form.
Both teams are coming off the back of close losses and will be desperate to win, but I anticipate a Leeds Rhinos victory.
Last Friday had both positives and negatives. Attacking wise I think we are making huge progress. In defence, however, at times a turnstile would have been more effective.
In my opinion, Jimmy Keinhorst had a great game at centre and tackled pretty much everything that went down his channel. The shot by Kyle Amor on Zak Hardaker was 50-50 as you can see both arguments.
If we can improve on our defence then that should set ourselves up to get some more victories.
Marwan Koukash’s wallet has benefited us in the short term with Salford’s six-point deduction; that does not mean we are safe from the middle-eights.
On to the first trip to Huddersfield in two weeks on Friday night. It is very important for us to get the two points. Huddersfield will have something to prove after defeat to Wigan last week, especially after the referee’s performance in the second half of that game.
We need to watch out for Danny Brough, who has often beaten us with his kicking game, and Ryan Brierley, who plays like Danny McGuire used to do when he had pace; we need to keep an eye on his support play.
The importance of league points should be over any cup run so I would prefer to see us win tomorrow night than next week.
Friday felt like we took one step forward and two steps back. The improvement in our attack was noticeable, and it’s certainly pleasing to score as many points as we did against a team like St Helens. But we do need to be much better defensively this week to guarantee a win at Huddersfield.
The wait will have to go on for Leeds to notch up back-to-back wins, but improvements are apparent.
Friday at Langtree Park saw Leeds crank up their highest total of points scored in a game so far this season, therefore suggesting that attacking improvements are being made. Nonetheless, another four-point defeat is disappointing and it’s these close games where the damage is being done at the moment. An interesting showdown is ahead at the John Smith’s Stadium against bottom club Huddersfield. Despite their standing, Giants have improved significantly in the last fortnight.
Starting well and getting the first score will be key, as will maintaining the improving attacking tempo. A fascinating evening in Huddersfield awaits.
Yet another defeat by a small margin! Brilliant at times and woeful as well which sums up the season so far.
The younger players stood up brilliantly along with the ‘pocket rocket’ Rob Burrow.
On to the bottom-of-the-table clash where only a win will do now.