ROB BURROW is gearing up for a strong finish to the season, after making his long-awaited comeback from injury in Leeds Rhinos’ 30-6 win over Hull KR.
Burrow was one of Rhinos’ form players before suffering a fractured collarbone in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup fifth round win over St Helens on April 26.
Leeds won six and lost four of the 10 games he missed – and the 31-year-old made an instant impact on his return, breaking the deadlock with a 59th minute try and crossing again in the final moments.
Burrow was introduced off the substitutes’ bench 24 minutes into Rhinos’ morale-boosting victory and said his tries – which took him above former Wigan Warriors star Pat Richards into eighth place on Super League’s all-time list – were just the icing on the cake.
“Tries aren’t something you think about,” he stressed. “I was just pleased to be involved in the game. I wasn’t concerned about the injury, but I was concerned about how fit I’d feel.
“I have been training quite intensely with (conditioners) Jason Davidson and Chris Black and credit to them, they got me match-fit, which is hard to do without playing games.
“It was the best comeback after a break I have ever had, on the lungs. To be involved in the game was great and to have an impact on the game was even better.”
Burrow added: “I want to give a big shout out to Andy Barker, who has been fantastic. He is the best physio I have ever had and he did a great job with my re-hab. Also Chris and Jason; it can be a lonely place when you are getting flogged, knowing you are not playing at the end of the week, but all that – nearly crying and hating them because it is so hard – is all right when you are back on the field.”
The hooker/scrum-half feels the lay-off has taken nothing out of his game.
“When I got injured I was playing confident and happy,” he said. “Mentally I am still positive. You get over the fact you are not playing because of injury and just focus on making an impact when you come back.
“That’s what I have been trying to do, I am feeling good and I want to carry on from where I left off.”
Coach Brian McDermott admitted Leeds have missed Burrow – and he said the feeling was mutual.
“It is tough when you’re not playing,” he conceded. “We have had quite a few injuries, it is not just me who’s been ruled out and when we are a few personnel down it makes you want to be out there even more.
“When the team’s winning you want to be part of it, but they are doing a good job and it is a bit easier. It’s harder when the team are having a tough time.
“This week I don’t feel any different to what I did last week, but until you see the specialist you can’t come back.
“It was really frustrating last week, the fact I felt great, but I still couldn’t play.
“It is hard, but it is in the past now – we are still second in the table and we are back on track.”
Burrow’s return has come at a key point in the season for Rhinos. They are less than a month away from a Challenge Cup semi-final meeting with Warrington Wolves and have seven league games left before the start of the play-offs, in September. Burrow is now looking to make up for lost time as Leeds bid for a Wembley appearance and the league leaders’ shield.
“I didn’t want to come back and just ease my way into it,” he said. “When I went into my tackles I was determined to go in and whack them with my shoulder and if it hurt, it hurt.
“That’s just the way it is, but you can’t hide – if you do that, you get found out. But there were no dramas and it was nice to hear the specialist say it (the collarbone) was 100 per cent.
“I looked at the scan and it was all fine. There was never any doubt. I have come back with a few games before the semi-final and I want to make an impact, as does Kev (Sinfield), Jonesy (Jamie Jones-Buchanan) when he comes back and the rest of the boys.
“We have got a hungry squad and we are getting close to the stage where people are going to miss out because everyone’s fully fit. The last few weeks haven’t been perfect, but we are sitting second, we have got some people coming back and I felt really good out there and really fresh.”
Rhinos are back in action on Thursday, when Castleford Tigers visit Headingley Carnegie. Burrow said Leeds are determined to build on the crucial win three days ago.
“Hull KR are always one of the hardest games we play, no matter how they are playing,” he said. “It was 0-0 for large parts, but it was good to kick-on like we did.
“It is a good time in the season to kick-on. We have got Cas this week and both teams are up near the top of the table, so all the hallmarks are there for it to be a classic.”
Ashton Golding and Elliot Minchella scored two tries each in Rhinos under-19s’ 40-18 win over Hull KR.
Brad England, Dan Tai and Ben Frankland also crossed and Jordan Lilley landed six goals.
The game was controlled by Super League officials Ben Thaler and Robert Hicks, as part of the RFL’s trial of two referees.
Rhinos academy manager Bob Pickles said: “The game was a lot quicker, mainly around the ruck. It was just a pity we speeded the game up on the hottest day of the year!”