COMEBACK KID Tom Briscoe described a hat-trick in his first game for four months as “the icing on the cake”.
Briscoe touched down three times in yesterday’s 36-22 win over Catalans Dragons, which ensured Rhinos will go into the Super-8s as league leaders.
The winger had missed 19 games after suffering a shoulder injury in Rhinos’ first defeat of the season, at Warrington Wolves on March 13.
He opened the scoring after five minutes, added a second late in the first half and completed his hat-trick with the last of Leeds’ six touchdowns.
“It was really pleasing for a first hit-out,” Briscoe reflected.
“Getting the win was the main thing, to finish top of the league, but getting a hat-trick was the icing on the cake.”
Briscoe caught the kick-off and said that “got the monkey off my back”.
He added: “I made the first carry and a couple of tackles and got the first try, so as starts go it couldn’t have gone much better to get my confidence up.”
Coach Brian McDermott hailed Briscoe for his comeback.
“It was a very good return,” McDermott said. “To score a hat-trick, he pretty much cracked on where he left off.
“It wasn’t the busiest of games for him, but when he had the ball in his hands he looked good with it – not just his tries.
“He made us some extra metres. I can only imagine how difficult it (the layoff) has been for him.
“Talk to any player who’s had a long-term injury and they always mention the levels of frustration and how they mentally handle that.
“We are very fortunate in that we have a good club and there’s lots of people giving lots of support.
“But it is still hard being out for such a long period of time, having to watch the team week in and week out.
“I can’t imagine what he went through, but he certainly handled it impeccably well. He has been very good during his injury.”
McDermott was also happy with Jones-Buchanan, who returned after almost two months on the sidelines.
“He was good,” McDermott said. “He gave the team a bit of punch when he came on and he does a lot of the unseen stuff.”
The win moved Leeds a point above St Helens on the Super League table at the end of the regular season.
With points carrying over into the Super-8s, they are in pole position to claim a play-off spot, but McDermott insisted: “We never said we need to be in top spot after round 23.
“It’s round 30, that’s when it counts for us. It wasn’t a target for us, we don’t think we’ve achieved anything just yet.”
Of Rhinos’ victory, McDermott said: “They are a good team Catalans.
“I know they have had a bit of a turbulent season away from home, but we have to travel there in the Super-8s.
“Quietly, we were very worried about today, really concerned. When we play them at their place that’s going to be a massive game.
“I don’t know who’s going to go out there and secure two points, because they’ve got a good combination of size and power and they can create some tries out of not much.
“We have a lot of respect for Catalans.”
Joel Moon missed the game due to an Achilles injury, but said he is confident of being available for Friday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final against Saints at Warrington.
Ash Handley, who lost his place to Briscoe, scored a try in Rhinos under-19s’ 22-10 victory over Catalans in the curtain-raiser.
Leeds’ other try scorers were Nathan Barker, Ryan Jones and Ben Frankland and Jordan Lilley added three goals.