LESSONS LEARNED last year will stand Leeds Rhinos in good stead as they compete on two fronts this season.
So says Australian import Adam Cuthbertson, who has played a major part in Rhinos reaching the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final and securing top spot on the table going into the First Utility Super-8s.
Following Friday’s 24-14 win over St Helens, Cuthbertson is looking ahead to his first English final less than a year after joining Leeds.
But he is aware of what happened last year and insisted there won’t be a repeat this time of Rhinos’ collapse, which saw them slump from potential league leaders to sixth spot on the table.
Leeds didn’t win a Super League game after July 25, losing to London in their only game between the semi-final and final and being beaten in their four matches after Wembley.
“It should be great,” Cuthbertson said of a Cup final appearance, against Hull KR on August 29.
“I’ve heard a lot about it from the boys who were there last year.
“Watching it back in Australia it was unreal to see the atmosphere and all the hype around it.
“But the job’s not done yet, we’ve got four weeks and we’ve got to enjoy it now and then get back to Super-8s on Friday.
“That’s important and I think the boys learned a lot about how important the season is around the Challenge Cup last year.
“We have really got to out in the next four weeks and get as many points as we can so we are going into the back end of the Super-8s really strong.”
Rhinos will begin the Super-8s in pole position.
But Leeds will be only a point clear of Saints and two up on Wigan Warriors.
“It’s not easy, but the boys really took a lot out of last year,” Cuthbertson added.
“They remember the bit of disappointment they had then. Coming off the back of last year we can only get better.
“We have got to learn from it, put the final out of our mind and just get on with it this week and try and get the wins.”
Celebrations on and off the field when the final hooter sounded on Friday underlined to Cuthbertson how important the Challenge Cup is.
He admitted to not knowing much about the competition before signing for Leeds, but said: “That [Friday] was an unreal atmosphere.
“It’s something I have never experienced before.
“I keep saying this, because the crowd keeps getting louder and the football keeps getting better.
“It is just something again, a semi-final. Saints are a quality team and they never give up, but our fans were unreal.
“They were cheering us on until the final seconds, so it is just another experience again for me this year.”
Coach Brian McDermott described the opening quarter of the cup-tie three days ago in Warrington as the best he has seen Rhinos play.
They led 12-0 early on, 12-4 at the break and 18-4 early in the second half, but then had to hang on as Saints stormed back.
“We really had to dig in in that second half,” Cuthbertson stated.
“We had a few bumps and bruises. There were a few people down and we had people out of position.
“I was playing back-row for a while, which I haven’t done much this year – in fact I’ve only done it once before.
“There was a lot of character shown and it was good to see. I think it came down to the last 20 minutes and the boys just wanted to compete and do it for each other. That’s where we won it.”