LONG-TERM CASUALTY Stevie Ward’s successful return has delighted Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
Ward had not played since suffering an ankle injury in Rhinos’ win over St Helens on July 3, but carried on where he had left off with a strong display in last night’s 25-18 win over Wigan Warriors.
That moved Rhinos four points clear of Wigan at the top of the First Utility Super-8s table, but was marred by an injury to another returning player, Mitch Achurch.
Of Ward, McDermott said. “He was very good. To do 60-odd minutes without a break and then he went back on for the final 10, that’s a big call for somebody who’s had a big injury and hasn’t been able to do any running or aerobic stuff throughout his re-hab.
“Well done to him.”
Achurch featured for the first time since undergoing wrist surgery two months ago. He was on the field just moments before having to be stretchered off. McDermott said: “He’s concussed, [was] knocked out. I don’t think there’s any other injury, but he was out cold on the field, so all precautions are being taken.”
Brett Delaney missed out due to a hamstring injury and is a doubt for next week’s trip to Hull, but McDermott is confident he will be available for the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final against Hull KR two weeks today.
Leeds led 25-8 with eight minutes remaining, but conceded two late tries and McDermott admitted it was more tense that it might have been.
He said: “Without being disrespectful to Wigan, I thought there were moments in that final 20 minutes when we had some naivety about us.
“Wigan don’t have many lulls and when you start to drop off they will start to make some line-breaks, putting their nose through and scoring some tries.
“Some of our hand-overs to them I thought were silly. We didn’t try to do that in the first 20 minutes, we were very controlled.”