VETERAN PROP-FORWARD Kylie Leuluai admits it will take time to come to terms with Leeds Rhinos’ early exit from the First Utility Super League play-offs.
Rhinos were eliminated in week one for the first time since 2006 when they lost 24-20 at home to Catalan Dragons two days ago. Leuluai joined Leeds ahead of the 2007 campaign and has played in – and won – five Grand Finals, with Rhinos being beaten at the qualifying semi-final stage in his other two years at the club.
The Challenge Cup holders looked to be heading for a trip to Huddersfield Giants on Friday night when they led 20-18 with less than two minutes left, but Sam Williams’ touchdown confirmed Catalan’s first-ever win at Headingley Carnegie.
“It’s strange losing like that,” Leuluai said afterwards. “The game was ours. It just shows how important concentration is – with a minute to go you still have to do it. It’s very disappointing to finish like that. It’s strange to be be out at this time of the season. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back in October now for training.”
Rhinos have not won a Super League match since July 25 and lost all their four games after the Cup final triumph over Castleford Tigers a month ago.
They seemed set to end that run when Jamie Jones-Buchanan crossed with 10 minutes to go, but Leuluai said: “It does show the pressure of the Challenge Cup. Our form hasn’t been good the last few weeks and we were hoping we’d turn it again. We did, the game was ours, but we never thought we’d won it when Jonesy scored. There was still a while to go so we didn’t think that. Credit to Catalan. They came over here and got their first win.”
Catalan’s winner came after a knock-on by Leeds winger Tom Briscoe, but Leuluai said nobody in the Leeds team blamed him for the defeat. “I do feel sorry for him,” Leuluai said. “It is going to be a tough time for him over the next few weeks, but it didn’t come down to that. There was a few areas of the game where a couple of guys made a few errors in the wrong places. They just put pressure on us and we didn’t cope with it. We threw so much into the Challenge Cup and as much as you want to win the league as well it’s hard to do the double, pick yourself up and find some momentum again.
“Teams have generally found it hard over the last few years to do that and we’ve found out just how tough.”