LEEDS RHINOS have to pull their chins off the floor for next Sunday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves after a dismal 38-22 loss at Salford Red Devils in their final game of of the regular season. Here are five talking points.
1: Rhinos will host Hull KR, Salford, Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse Olympique at home in the Qualifiers and visit Widnes Vikings, London Broncos and Halifax. Leeds won one of their last 11 Betfred Super League games; Hull KR are in better form, Salford were clearly superior last week and even Widnes have strengthened. London Broncos’ big win at Barrow on Sunday, which snatched second-place in the Championship and saved Rhinos a trip to France, was an unexpected bonus, but it’s a bigger challenge than two years ago. But survival is in their hands and it’s not a daunting fixture list.
2: Nathaniel Peteru was held up over the line twice by Salford defenders and made a good impact on his return from his second biceps injury this year. He was one of the few positives for Leeds, along with Matt Parcell and Tom Briscoe. There are leaders in the group, but nobody is stepping up and taking charge of games and too many players looked disinterested. There was nothing riding on the result, but positive work in the previous two matches was undone.
3: It was a tough debut for Jordan Thompson, but the ex-Castleford, Hull and Leigh man will be a good addition. He’s tough, a good defender and has a high work rate, just the qualities Rhinos will need in the eights.
4: Salford played well and were full of enthusiasm, but Leeds’ attack, against 12 men, was nowhere near good enough. Richie Myler was missed and without Ryan Hall and Mitch Garbutt Leeds had no go-forward. Defensively, Robert Lui’s try on the stroke of half-time, when Rhinos just needed to move up and make a tackle, highlighted what director of rugby Kevin Sinfield is up against.
5: Ninth in Super League twice in three seasons is not good enough. If Rhinos avoid the drop the squad needs an overhaul with more quality brought in. After the terrible 1996 season Leeds signed Iestyn Harris. Something similar is needed now.