CHALLENGE CUP glory can carry Leeds Rhinos to more success in the league, coach Brian McDermott says.
Rhinos return to action at home to table-topping St Helens tonight in their first game since last Saturday’s Wembley win over Castleford Tigers.
After two days of celebrations, Rhinos were back in training on Tuesday and McDermott insisted the Cup victory has put fresh wind in their sails.
“It is not something you put behind you,” McDermott said.
“It is something you carry with you. We won’t forget about it, we have done something really good and it’s a good feeling to have.
“We will carry on and use it as a bit of momentum.”
The target now for Rhinos is the treble of top spot in First Utility Super League and Grand Final victory, to go alongside the Challenge Cup triumph.
Fifth-placed Leeds are four points behind the leaders with just three games left.
They close their home campaign tonight and then visit second-placed Wigan Warriors, before finishing off away to Hull.
McDermott said: “In reality we need to win all three games if we’re going to have a chance of finishing as league leaders, which is something we’ve not given up on just yet.
“This season’s job isn’t done yet and that was spoken about in the dressing room straight afterwards on Saturday.
“Every now and again you get given opportunities to do things that are special. It’s still possible that we finish as league leaders.
“That’s a big ask, but we’ve been posed bigger questions in the past and we’ve answered them.
“We are keen to finish off strong.”
Asked if he feels a sense of accomplishment, having collected one of the two major honours available this year, McDermott added: “Not yet.
“The Challenge Cup is part of the journey. We have achieved something along the way, but we’ve still got a fair way to go.”
Since the Challenge Cup final was moved to August, just weeks before the end of the regular league campaign, only one team - Wigan last year - have managed to follow up a victory in the knockout competition with Grand Final success.
“It can be done,” McDermott noted.
“It is do-able, but it is a big ask.”
Successive league defeats to the two relegated teams, Bradford Bulls and London Broncos, were a major blow to Leeds’ hopes of finishing top of the table.
Those games were played either side of the Cup semi-final win over Warrington Wolves and McDermott fielded below-strength teams, in order to keep players fit for the Wembley campaign.
He admitted there are some “bumps and bruises” following the Cup final, but said the time for resting and rotating players is over.
“All that’s gone, we will be fielding our best team from here on in,” he stressed.
A Saints win tonight would mean Leeds can’t finish top of the pile and edge the visitors a step closer to the league leaders’ shield.
The injury-hit Langtree Park side are seeking a league double following their 14-10 home win in March, though Leeds were 32-12 victors in the following month’s Challenge Cup fifth round tie at Headingley.
“They are a tenacious team,” McDermott observed. “They have got some important people missing, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting them too much.
“They will be a huge challenge, we have got to prepare for a very good St Helens and we’re not banking on people who are playing out of position possibly having ropy games.
“I am sure they will want to come up with a big performance at Headingley.”