Challenge Cup holders and Super League leaders Leeds Rhinos can compete on two fronts this season, winger Ryan Hall believes.
Rhinos will be aiming to double their two-point advantage at the top of First Utility Super League when they play host to Hull KR tonight.
That is the first of four league games before next month’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final at Hull.
Last year Rhinos were flying high in the table over the first half of the campaign, but their league form suffered as they progressed on the Cup trail.
Leeds’ last league victory was in July, they failed to win any of their final five games in the weekly rounds and were beaten at the first stage in the play-offs.
Rhinos could be facing a similar scenario now. The league leaders’ shield is within their grasp and they are only two Cup wins away from a return to Wembley.
Hall, who returned from a fractured wrist in last Saturday’s 48-16 Cup victory over Huddersfield Giants, is confident Leeds can be successful in both competitions this season.
“Of course we can,” he said. “That’s our aim every year. If it has never happened, that’s because it’s a tough competition. We can’t just click our fingers and expect the job to be done.
“We fight every step of the way, for everything we can and obviously that’s the aim this year.”
Hall said top spot is a huge incentive for Rhinos. He added: “We know that’s a long way from decided yet.
“We are a grounded set of blokes and there’s a long way to go before we can think about being league leaders.
“We haven’t done it since 2009 and over the last six years we’ve been poor in the league.
“It is one thing we want to put right. It’s not really something to be proud of, coming fifth and then being crowned champions at the end.
“We want to come first and be proud of the way we’ve played week-in and week-out.”
Points from the first 23 rounds carry over into the Super-8s, the new competition involving the top-eight teams which leads to knockout semi-finals for a place at Old Trafford.
“The line is every minute matters,” Hall said. “That speaks for itself. The league have done a great job setting it up like that.
“It is a new concept and it’s great to be the pioneers of that. It would be great to be the first ones to do it like that.”
Hall is likely to be a key figure for Rhinos at the business end of the season and he admitted he is delighted to have his name back on the teamsheet.
“It’s really pleasing to be out on the field, helping the team to win,” Hall said. “I am not a good watcher. Since 2009 I seem to have played most games, so it has been very frustrating and it’s nice to be able to contribute to the team again.
“They seemed to struggle the last few weeks, not winning in three games, so it’s good to back and for the team to get going again like that, in front of the Headingley fans, is great.”
Hall bagged a brace of tries in his comeback match, taking his tally for the season to seven in 10 games. He said: “I never read too much into scoring tries, apart from it helps our team towards a win.
“That’s what we all get our buzz from really, getting the win for Leeds Rhinos. We are through to the next round and that was the main focus last week.
“It was mission accomplished and it was a good performance. The last 10 minutes, when we thought the game was done, might be a bit of a concern, but overall we played well. That’s what we look at, the whole of the performance. We have got to be pleased after that performance.”
The win over Giants seems to have got Rhinos back on track, but Hall said nobody in the camp is underestimating how dangerous Hull KR can be.
The Robins are ninth in the table, but a win would leave them level on points with fifth-placed Warrington Wolves.
Since being crushed 60-0 at Wigan three weeks ago, Rovers have thrashed Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 54-6 and then gained revenge with a stunning 16-14 Cup win against the last team to beat them in the league.
“We will have to play well,” Hall said. “We saw how good they can be in the first game of the year, when we played them at their place.
“They scored 30 points against us. That was a worry for us and it’s still going to be a worry this time. We know they can attack. They did a job on Wigan, so that shows they can play. They will be a team full of confidence and that’s a scary thing, it is a powerful beast in rugby league, confidence. Teams playing with it are dangerous so we are going to have to prepare for the best of Hull KR.”
Hall was last year’s Lance Todd Trophy winner and the previous Leeds player to be named man of the match in a winning Challenge Cup final will be putting his boots back on in aid of charity tomorrow.
Leroy Rivett, who scored four tries in the 1999 Wembley triumph over London Broncos, is set to feature for an East Leeds Old Boys team – also including Anthony and David Gibbons, Phil Hasty and Rob Roberts – against the current side at Easy Road (2.30pm) in the annual Kearne and Durkin charity match. The game is to raise funds for former player Kyle Butterfield, who is suffering from Hodgkins Lymphoma.