Leeds Rhinos: Confident Mac still wary of a backlash

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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FORM MAKES Leeds Rhinos hot favourites to beat visitors London Broncos tonight, but Brian McDermott insists they can’t just expect it to happen.

While Leeds are unbeaten after five rounds – with four wins and a draw – London have lost all their games so far in First Utility Super League and only Bradford Bulls’ points deduction is keeping them off the foot of the table.

Broncos were crushed 50-22 at home by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats six days ago and have conceded an average of 45 points per game – just one fewer than Leeds have in total.

Despite all that, coach McDermott is expecting a strong performance from London and reckons Leeds will have to earn anything they get from tonight’s game.

McDermott said: “I know a fair bit about their head coach Tony Rea and I am sure he will provide them with enough enthusiasm this week and enough motivation for them to show a response.

“I think they will regard last week as a poor loss against somebody who will be regarded as one of their rivals on the table.

“They will want to do a far better job than that and they will be hurting. I am sure they will want a reaction. Going on current form everybody would tip us to win, but we have got to make sure we’re not the people doing that.

“We will let others do that, we have got to make sure we put the things in place we’ve been doing each week, throughout the week, which enables us to be good on Friday night.”

Rhinos are on the back of a 38-4 drubbing of previously unbeaten Widnes Vikings and McDermott added: “I was happier, but there are still things we’ve got to get right. I don’t think we’ve got the complete game yet, nor should we after round five.

“But I was happier, especially in the second half. We reaped the rewards of how we played in the first half, nice and controlled and we played tough. We almost played within ourselves in the first half I thought, but it certainly clicked for us in the second half. The message there for us is that we did some tough things in the first half, which got us going in the right direction.

“Against London we will have to invest a fair amount of our game into doing those tough things again. We won’t be scoring three tries in the first 10 minutes, for sure.”

Broncos’ squad includes Leeds centre Thomas Minns and forward Alex Foster, who are spending the year with the capital club. A third Rhinos prospect, James Duckworth, has been struggling with a hamstring injury.

McDermott said: “We will get to see them and find out how they are going. I have been keeping in contact with them, but we will touch base with them, have a little check on them and certainly get to see how they play against us.”

McDermott was coach of London – then known as Harlequins – from July 2006 to October 2010 and is sorry to see his previous side struggling, but insists the game in the capital is far from on its knees.

“When anybody speaks about London rugby league now, they have got to be really specific as to who it is they are talking about,” he said.

“The Super League team in London is struggling and has been for a good number of years now; financially, on a recruitment level and with the nomadic existence they’ve got, not owning their own stadium and going from ground to ground.

“That continues to be a problem. They could certainly help themselves better and maybe the RFL could have more of an input, though I do think the RFL has made great strides in the last 18 months with them.

“You can make your judgement about the professional teams, but it would be a bad error to then generalise and say the whole of rugby league in London is struggling, because it is not.

“The junior side of rugby league in London is thriving. There are more kids playing the game and the game is being embraced by more families and kids than ever before. It is very, very healthy and to make a sweeping statement about rugby league struggling would be ignorant.”

Broncos are clearly hot favourites for relegation, which could give them chance to rebuild, but McDermott is uncertain if a spell in the Kingstone Press Championship could benefit London’s top club. “I don’t know whether that’s an option and I don’t know whether it would work for them,” he said. “I think people’s patience with London is being strained and I understand. It would be wrong just to carry on and keep banging the same drum, but do people really understand the challenge London has to compete in the same competition with the same rules and regulations regarding recruitment and staffing as everyone else, yet their demographic is so different? If people had a brief insight into what they are up against they would be a bit more tolerant of what’s going on, I am sure.”

Leeds Rhinos' return-from-injury pack man, Brett Ferres. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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