Our YEP Jury look back on Rhinos’ Easter programme and ahead to tomorrow’s Challenge Cup tie against Doncaster.
The Easter programme brought the maximum league points for Leeds and, owing to other results, we are joint top of the league.
Hull FC disappeared faster than a ‘salted snail’ on Good Friday and took a 50-point battering for the second week in succession.
Certainly, for the first period on Easter Monday, it looked like Widnes had read the script and promptly rolled over, with another half-century thrashing on the cards against what looked to be one of the poorest sides I’ve seen this season.
The second half was the antithesis. Either the visitors played for pride or Leeds massively took ‘their foot off the gas’.
Either way, if Leeds intend to be a contender this season, they shouldn’t allow a four-score advantage to be reduced to having to look over their shoulders with 10 minutes to go, as sloppy handling turned the game into a ‘knockonathon’ from the home side.
Thankfully, a couple of late tries cashed in the ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card by getting Leeds out of trouble and a scoreline that flattered the Loiners – a luxury some of the better-organised teams in the league won’t allow.
Leeds’ next fixture, tomorrow night, is the arrival of Doncaster in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup, Leeds entering a round earlier than most of the other ‘big teams’ this year due to their poor form last term. I’d expect the Dons to give a good account of themselves before extra fitness of the full-time professional outfit comes to the fore in the final quarter.
Sadly, the chance of a cup shock is increasingly rare these days and my suggestion is: where a Super League side is drawn against a lower-division side – and where safe to do so – why not ensure the Super League side always plays away to make the game that bit more tricky for the higher-ranked outfit?
I’m sure many Leeds fans would welcome the chance to visit somewhere they would otherwise be unlikely to get to by merely following Leeds in the league, whilst giving the lower-league hosts a cash boost through the turnstiles.
Hull away was an eagerly awaited game, always likely to be difficult, especially following defeats by both teams the previous week; but far from the closely fought game expected, it was, in effect, over by half-time.
A strong display by the pack, with Mitch Garbutt quite dominant, paved the way for some exciting play from the half-backs with both Joel Moon and Danny McGuire prominent. It was good to see both Stevie Ward and Keith Galloway back from injury, Galloway especially made some good yards.
I said to myself that I wouldn’t mention James Child this week, so I won’t.
Having already been beaten by what was one of the bottom teams in Warrington last weekend, it was with some trepidation that we welcomed Widnes Vikings to Headingley on Easter Monday. Would lightning strike twice, or could we muster enough fit players to dominate once again?
We soon found the answer, a first half in which Leeds seemingly scored at will, followed by a second half which was dour to say the least. Possibly a combination of fatigue, complacency and conceding penalty after penalty gave Widnes the run of the park to bring them to within eight points with Leeds being starved of possession. It wasn’t until Kallum Watkins settled things with a try and goal late on that we could breathe again.
Easter is a notoriously difficult period, but Leeds negotiated it with relative ease.
Magnificent against Hull and for a half against Widnes, the four points were attained. Injuries are biting and not everyone is 100 per cent fit, so I’d like to see us rest plenty when we beat Doncaster in the Cup.
As Easter weekends go, that was a very good one for Leeds. Two decent performances, four points and thanks to the teams around us dropping points, a place gained in the table.
There was some slack defending at times in each game, but that is expected during this point of the campaign.
It is worth noting that the Rhinos have now collected 16 points after 11 rounds, the same total mustered from the whole of last year’s regular rounds, which shows the progress made from 2016.
Attention now turns to the Challenge Cup and our clash with Doncaster, a fixture I fully expect to win. After last season’s early exit, it would be nice to put a cup run together and reach the later stages.
After a hard loss it’s nice to see Leeds pick themselves back up and bring out a strong performance. The Easter period is never easy for anyone, but Leeds can use their current momentum to gain a few points on the fellow top-of-the-table teams. Time for the consistency to spread into the Challenge Cup.