DEFIANT MAN of Steel Zak Hardaker has promised Leeds Rhinos will not throw in the towel.
A 40-8 loss to Wigan Warriors at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle left Rhinos bottom of the First Utility Super League table, six points outside the top-eight with only eight games to play.
Hardaker admitted Leeds’ 12th loss in 15 league games was tough to take and he said: “In the first half I thought we were really good and physically we were dominating them.
“But in the second half we got flooded by points again. That’s happened a few times this year, but we have got to keep our heads up, keep going and try and get something out of this year.
“We aren’t happy, but we can’t be down all the time.
“We haven’t written our season off, we haven’t given up on the top-eight yet.
“We are only three or four wins off. Obviously teams above us have got to lose some games as well, but we’re not throwing it away – we are going to keep on fighting. We do that by turning up on Monday and going again.”
Boss Brian McDermott reckons Leeds are still capable of a positive finish to the season.
He said he is “in charge of a group of men who can do some special things” and he insisted: “I think there’s something special to be done for us at the end of the year.
“As weeks go by and you keep losing games, your objectives shift.
“I don’t know whether I am giving up on the Grand Final. I don’t think I am, but numerically we just might be out of touch at the moment.
“But I want to mix with and train with and work with and pretty much live with a group of men who just give it absolutely everything each week.
“There’s an example today – I don’t know if we were ever going to come up with that game after about 10 minutes after half-time, but we never, ever gave in.
“There’s something there to work with, something there that’s good for he future.” Leeds trailed only 12-4 at the break, but conceded three tries in the first 13 minutes afterwards.
Reflecting on a fourth successive Magic Weekend loss to Wigan, McDermott, pictured above, said: “It was a tough way to lose and a tough scoreline I thought.
“Obviously the crucial part was just after half-time.
“After that period when we leaked those tries we got back in it and kept fighting. Before that period, just before half-time, the game was a contest.
“I thought it was really tough for our fellas to concede that many points, because I thought we gave it absolutely everything.”
McDermott said Rhinos put a “chunk of effort in” and he added: “That’s the hard thing, when you know you’re having a go.
“We’re clearly hamstrung with personnel missing and what’s gone on in pre-season. That’s had a huge bearing on us, but you get to a stage of the season where if just one or two things go your way and a couple of bounces of the balls and a couple of calls…
“I’m not saying they were wrong, but they hurt you at times. You get a group of men who’ve probably made far too many tackles already this year having to make another set of tackles, where we didn’t need that set at that particular time.
“That’s tough, tough is the word of the day.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane had encouraging words for Rhinos.
He said: “They were warming up on the same pitch as us and there is loads of spirit in that team. I know they’ve got players down, but they’re a competitive team.
“There’s loads and loads of spirit left in that team, there’s no question about that. They’ve got a competitive coach, competitive players.
“Even though they’ve lost a few games they’ve still been posting points so to keep them to just eight points was a great defensive effort.”