LEEDS RHINOS have four games left to avoid relegation. Here are five talking points after three rounds in the Qualifiers:
1: The next month is arguably the most important in the club’s history and Sunday’s match at Widnes is crucial, if not literally must-win. Three victories from their last five matches should seal a top-three place in the Qualifiers and Super League rugby next year. On current form, they will not beat Salford Red Devils in their following game, but should have enough to see off Halifax and – in what could be a decider – Toronto Wolfpack. If they slip up at Widnes, where they’ve lost on four of their last five visits – it will be the ‘million-pound game’ and 80 minutes to save their Super League skins.
2: Ask just about anyone outside the club what is likely to happen and the inevitable answer is ‘Rhinos will be all right’. That is not based on reality. Early results in the Qualifiers suggest Rhinos are a cut above the Championship, but they are not playing Super League-standard rugby. Two wins from their last 14 meetings with top-flight opposition – both against Widnes Vikings, who have lost 16 straight – tells its own story.
3: Rhinos have probably about five things to work on this week: defence, defence, defence, defence and defence. They are starting to score points, but have conceded 178 in their last five games and two of those have been against Championship teams. Ironically, Rhinos nilled both their remaining Super League opponents earlier this season, but that resolve seems to have disappeared completely.
4: Director of rugby Kevin Sinfield is having to deal with a situation not of his making, having inherited a team already in freefall. Fresh ideas were needed, but the big issue is the quality of the squad and that requires a long-term fix. The only aim now is to still be in Super League at the end of this season, then rebuild over the next couple of years under a new head coach with Sinfield doing the job he signed up for in overall charge of the rugby operation.
5: The 11,000-plus crowd at Rhinos’ 38-36 home loss to Hull KR was the second-best attendance of last weekend, behind the Saints-Wigan derby in the Super-8s. Rhinos’ plight will be causing sleepless nights across Super League.