Leeds Rhinos have plenty to play for in tonight’s final game of the regular season, according to winger Tom Briscoe.
Rhinos are guaranteed to finish sixth in First Utility Super League, whatever their result away to third-bottom Hull, but Briscoe said it is important they break a sequence of defeats and gain some momentum and confidence ahead of the play-offs, which begin at home to the seventh-placed finishers a week tomorrow.
Briscoe said: “It doesn’t affect the league, but obviously we want the win.
“As a team we want to get back to winning ways and to go into the play-offs on the back of a good performance.
“You need a bit of momentum going into the play-offs and it would make it tough for us going in on the back of three defeats.
“It’s important we put in a good performance, get the win and get a bit of momentum behind us going into the tough part of the season.”
Rhinos’ run of four league defeats has been broken up by wins in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final and final and includes a battling performance, with only 12 men after Joel Moon was sent-off, against league leaders St Helens.
Assessing Rhinos’ form, Briscoe said: “I suppose you could call it patchy. It is just about us getting back to what we do best.
“In the first half of the Wigan game last week we kind of went away from that and in the other losses it just didn’t happen for us.
“But if we take what happened in the Cup into the play-offs it will certainly go a long way towards helping us achieve the Grand Final.”
Rhinos are used to playing high-intensity, knock-out rugby. The last time they failed to get to within at least one game of the Grand Final was eight years ago and they have already shown what they are capable of on their Challenge Cup-winning run, which included victories over Super League top-five sides St Helens, Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers.
“I think this sort of rugby brings the best out of us,” Briscoe said. “It has got to. It will be knock-out football straight away, with us being in sixth position.
“We need to throw everything in every week in order for us to get to Old Trafford, but that’s quite a way off yet.
“We will concentrate on this week and make sure we get our performance right and hopefully we will be there come October.”
Rhinos were in the hunt for the top-two until just a fortnight ago and Briscoe reckons their sixth-placed finish – the club’s lowest since 1996 – is not an accurate reflection of the campaign as a whole.
“The way we started the season and where we were a month ago, it is pretty disappointing to be in sixth,” he said.
“But it’s one of those things, it’s our own performances that have got us a few losses towards the back end of the season.
“We know it isn’t good enough and we have only got ourselves to blame, but going into this game – and looking ahead at the play-offs – we want to give it a really good shot.”
Rhinos’ slide down the table illustrates how tight the competition has been among the top six teams this year.
Briscoe said: “It is great for Super League for the top-six to all have been challenging for top spot with three or four games to go.
“It is great and great for the teams within those six places that haven’t been there before.
“It shows how much the quality of Super League has improved.
“But I think if we get performances right like we did in the Cup and we have at times in the league, we will certainly put in a solid challenge.”
Briscoe will make his first return to the west of the city of Hull tonight in a Leeds kit after ending a long association with the East Yorkshire club last year.
He scored 83 tries in 134 Super League games for Hull from 2008-2013, but knows the home fans will be gearing up to give him a warm reception.
“I couldn’t have waited much longer to go back, to the last game of the season,” he said.
“But I am looking forward to it. I always love playing at the KC. It is a great stadium and playing for Hull the crowd there are great.”
But the former ‘Black and White’ admitted: “Experiencing the other side of it will be a bit strange, but I have had a full season to get used to playing for Leeds Rhinos – and I have played against them before – so I will be ready.”
Hull: from Abdull, Bowden, Colbon, Cunningham, Ellis, Green, Hadley, Heremaia, Horne, Houghton, Lineham, Logan, Paea, Rankin, Talanoa, Thompson, Watts, Westerman, Yeaman.
Leeds rhinos: from Hardaker, T Briscoe, Watkins, Keinhorst, Hall, Sinfield, Sutcliffe, Bailey, Aiton, Peacock, Delaney, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Leuluai, Achurch, S Ward, Singleton, McGuire, Burrow.
Referee: Tim Roby (Preston).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.