LOWER-DIVISION Leigh Centurions are good enough to present Betfred Super League champions Leeds Rhinos with a tricky challenge tonight, recalled centre Jimmy Keinhorst reckons.
The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final, at Featherstone, is set to be Keinhorst’s second game since returning to Leeds from a loan spell at Widnes Vikings. The terms of that deal did not allow him to feature for Widnes in the knockout competition and Keinhorst was a non-playing member of Widnes’ camp in the previous round three weeks ago, when Rhinos won 23-20 at Halton Stadium.
“It has changed quickly,” he reflected. “I am looking forward to it [tonight]. It will be my first game in the Challenge Cup this year and they will present a decent challenge for us, I’m sure.
“They are going quite well in the Championship and we’ve played them a couple of times recently, in the Qualifiers and Super League last year and the Challenge Cup as well.
“They pushed us close last time in the Cup and we will have to be on the money to get through to the next round.”
After being relegated last year, Leigh made a dismal start to life in the Betfred Championship, but revived under caretaker – and now head – coach Kieron Purtill, winning 11 successive games.
They pushed us close last time in the Cup and we will have to be on the money to get through to the next round.Jimmy Keinhorst
That run ended last week when they were pipped 28-26 by leaders Toronto Wolfpack, but Keinhorst warned: “They will be a confident group and they will come into it in good form.
“We have got a job on to keep them quiet. If we do our jobs we know we need to do early on, I am sure we can do that and get over the top of them, but it will be a massive challenge for us, for sure.”
The Cup victory at Widnes was Leeds’ only win in their last four games. They have played well for spells in all of them, but lacked consistency.
Poor starts have also been a feature of Rhinos’ recent matches and Keinhorst admitted: “We are always looking for consistency and it seems to be one of the hardest things to find, even in an 80-minute game.
“We started poorly at Catalans and that probably cost us in the end. There were periods in that game when we got back into it and showed a bit of something and then dropped off again.
“That consistency over the 80 minutes is something we need to take care of better and starting in a better way than we have been doing will probably help towards that.
“We seem to have been on the back foot in games and we can’t afford to put ourselves in that situation going forward.”
Keinhorst began the season outside Rhinos’ first 17, but scored a match-winning hat-trick against Hull KR in Super League round two.
An injury in the next league match, at Widnes, cost him his place and when he recovered he could not force his way back in past Ash Handley, who had made a successful switch from wing to centre.
The loan move was arranged to give him game time at the top level, but he was recalled after captain Kallum Watkins suffered a season-ending knee injury at last month’s Magic Weekend.
Keinhorst knows he now has an opportunity to put a run of games together, but insisted he is taking nothing for granted.
“It is good to come back and be part of the team and get a game,” he said. “Obviously the result wasn’t the greatest in Catalans, but it was good to be back around the boys and playing again.
“It was a shame for Kal and we will miss him for sure, but it has opened up an opportunity for me to come back and, hopefully, keep a spot in the team, depending on me playing well and performing.
“I know that’s what I’ve got to do because there’s Sutty [Liam Sutcliffe] to come back [from injury] and Harry Newman is playing well for Featherstone in the Championship.
“He will be worth his opportunity soon so I need to be on my toes and do the best I can for myself. That’s what I will be focusing on.”
Keinhorst’s Leeds contract ends this autumn and he admitted he is “not sure” if he will be at the club next year.
He has been linked with a move to Hull KR, where his former Rhinos team-mate Jamie Peacock is in charge of the rugby department, but insisted: “There is nothing firmed up at the moment.
“I am just going to try and focus on my performances back at Leeds and where I am now.”