ENGLAND CENTRE Kallum Watkins insists Leeds Rhinos are taking a myopic view and not thinking beyond Friday’s derby at Castleford Tigers.
A year after being involved in a relegation battle in the Qualifiers, Leeds are on course to secure a home semi-final in the Betfred Super-8s. That would put them in prime position for a return to Old Trafford – where they last featured in 2015 – but Watkins said they are not looking that far ahead.
Castleford have already won the league leaders’ shield and are favourites to take one place in the Grand Final. They are on a seven-game winning run against Leeds, including three victories this year and Watkins said it is crucial Rhinos prove they can compete with and beat this year’s most consistent side.
“The focus is on Friday’s game and we want to play well,” he said. “They have got the better of us quite a few times and for us it is about going out there and performing to the best we can.
“We also want to win and going there is a big challenge for us. Both teams will want to play the best they can because they will want to perform well going into the semi-finals.
“I think if we can get some momentum going that will help, but we need to perform a lot better than we did last week to get a good result.”
Rhinos’ players and coaching staff were unhappy with the way they played in the 38-26 win over Hull last Thursday, despite the importance of the result.
It secured Leeds’ place in the top four and left them one win away from guaranteeing a home semi-final, but Watkins admitted the result was better than the performance.
“It was a big win for us last week,” he said. “It wasn’t the best of games, it didn’t really flow and there was no rhythm to it, but we managed to get the result. We have got quite a bit of work to do, but it has put us in a good place and it was good to get the win.”
If the table remains unchanged Hull will return to Headingley for a sudden-death play-off on Friday, September 29.
Watkins reckons the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup holders are genuine contenders for the Super League crown.
“They had a big weekend with winning the Cup final and it was a quick turnaround for them,” he said.
“Credit to them for backing up after such a huge game.
“We knew they weren’t going to go away because they are a good side, but for us, we just needed to get the win and we have moved on now to this week.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos could be without half-back/hooker Rob Burrow for Friday’s game after he was accused of butting Hull’s Jake Connor during last week’s win.
The grade B offence carries a maximum ban of two games, which will be halved if he submits an early guilty plea.
Hull’s Gareth Ellis (dangerous contact with Stevie Ward) and Steve Michaels (striking Jack Walker) also face grade B charges.