ENGLAND CENTRE Kallum Watkins’ return to form was one of the most encouraging aspects of Leeds Rhinos’ first win of the season – and his winger, Tom Briscoe, has tipped the team captain to be a major force in Betfred Super League this year.
The 46-14 thrashing of Salford Red Devils two days ago was Watkins’s third competitive game since suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in May last year.
Rhinos’ season went rapidly downhill after that, but Watkins showed Leeds what they have been missing with a big individual contribution at AJ Bell Stadium.
He set up the first of Jack Walker’s hat-trick of tries and being heavily involved in the build-up to Konrad Hurrell’s crucial second touchdown which ended Salford’s fightback after half-time.
The captain also made several important tackles and Briscoe reflected: “You’ve got to remember he has been out for that long he needs some games under his belt to build his confidence.
“He is taking strides forward every week and that’s what we need.”
You’ve got to remember he has been out for that long he needs some games under his belt to build his confidence.Tom Briscoe on Kallum Watkins
The same could be said for the team, who broke their duck for the season after back-to-back defeats away to Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors.
“It’s what we needed,” Briscoe admitted.
“It was a good performance and individually there were some good performances.
“To get that result was pleasing and it builds our confidence for Friday.”
The victory was Leeds’ first away to a Super League team other than Widnes Vikings since last April.
Briscoe added: “Obviously our first two games have been against two top teams, both away.
“We have had a really tough start but to get a convincing win like that was good.
“The frustrating thing over the last two weeks was we’ve looked good in glimpses and let ourselves down for the majority of the games.
“On Sunday, we still had those glimpses, but on the whole we were very good.”
Rhinos scored eight tries – most of them in two blistering spells either side of half-time, but defensively they also took a step forward, restricting Salford to just two touchdowns.
Briscoe felt better ball control made it easier for the defence – and doing less defence ensured they were able to take their chances when they came.
“We are a good team, we just did too much of it in then first two games,” he stated.
“To get our fair share of the ball, it just shows what we can do both in attack and defence. We have defended well in patches in the first two games, but when you do too much of it it’s hard to carry on doing that and have the energy to back that up.”
Leeds visit another unbeaten team, St Helens, in three days’ time.
Ahead of that encounter, Briscoe insisted: “They keep coming thick and fast, but we’ve built a bit of confidence going into that game.
“It’s a short turnaround, but we’ll look at fixing up what needs to be done and we’ll go into that flying.”