shocked leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott accepted his team “weren’t good enough throughout the game” after their season ended in a painful play-offs defeat at home to Catalan Dragons.
Catalan’s last-gasp 24-20 success, their first win at Headingley Carnegie in 10 attempts, was Rhinos’ fourth straight defeat and their sixth in as many First Utility Super League matches.
It brought to an end a season during which Rhinos won the Challenge Cup for the first time in 15 years, but finished in their lowest position on the table since the inaugural Super League season in 1996.
Asked in the post-match press conference for his reaction, McDermott said: “We weren’t good enough throughout the game. I didn’t think it was a great game, I didn’t think Catalan were great either, but obviously they were dogged throughout, exploited a couple of defensive errors from us and got the game. So credit to Catalan for that, but we weren’t good enough at any period during that game to win it.”
Catalan scored their winning try in the final moments, after Leeds winger Tom Briscoe dropped a pass on his own line.
“Ultimately they scored the try off that error, but that’s not where the game was lost at all,” McDermott said. “There were another at least two defensive blunders and we didn’t really take hold of that game at all.
“If you are going to get into an arm wrestle with teams and go right down to the wire, when the game was there for the taking throughout, certainly we haven’t been and won’t be looking at that as a defining moment in that game.
“There were far more errors and blunders and mediocre attack throughout that game.
“Ultimately we have been there for a while now and haven’t been able to break out of that.
“Players have been working really hard and they have had focus in training and prep’ to try and turn some of the things around that have not been there in recent weeks, but ultimately it has cost us at the end.”
McDermott added: “I don’t think it’s a confidence issue. I don’t think you’ve got a group of unsure men out there.
“We’ve clearly got a group of committed men, but things haven’t been happening for us in recent weeks and some of the things we’ve been known for defensively started to fracture a little bit towards the back end of the year and they’re hard things to turn around.”
Nine of Rhinos’ 11 losses this year were by six points or fewer and McDermott said: “That’s something we’ll look at, but that’s no consolation.
“We are out of the play-offs and we’re not going to get through to the Grand Final, which is really hard to take for everybody in the club. It’s not just about the players and staff, it’s a big club and there’s a fair few people been backing the players all year.
“And I am sure the fans will be more disappointed than everybody.”
The coach said it is too early to assess the season as a whole, admitting: “We are hugely disappointed.
“It is tough when you plan to do something and you don’t get it.
“I think if you have given it a real good go and you’ve executed a lot of the things you wanted to do and then you fail, it is an easier pill to swallow.
“But the form we’ve been in, that’s been the hard bit, that we haven’t quite hit our straps towards the back end of the year. The biggest frustration throughout the off-season and certainly for the next few weeks will be that we just weren’t there for the final few weeks.”
McDermott revealed Joel Moon – who left the ground with an arm in a sling – damaged a shoulder in the first half.
He said Kevin Sinfield was “okay” despite being hit twice off the ball, though McDermott was unhappy with those challenges, describing them as being “back to 1980s rugby league”.
Leeds Rhinos under-19s were beaten 26-12 at Wigan Warriors in the academy play-offs.
Ash Handley crossed twice and Robbie Ward also touched down.