Leeds Rhinos: Magic defeat was agonising says Hardaker

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FULL-BACK Zak Hardaker dismissed the pain from an ankle injury and insisted Leeds Rhinos’ Magic Weekend loss to Wigan Warriors was far more agonising.

Hardaker produced an outstanding individual display at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, but could not prevent Rhinos from going down 27-12.

Leeds Rhinos' players show their frustration after Wigan's last try.

Leeds Rhinos' players show their frustration after Wigan's last try.

It was their third successive loss to Wigan at a Magic Weekend and their lead in the First Utility Super League table, which was six points in late April, is down to one point. Hardaker limped off after being hurt attempting to force his way over for a try late in the game.

His damaged ankle was in a protective boot after the match and he said: “It’s a bit sore, I rolled it.

“It settled down a bit after I came off for the last 10 minutes. Hopefully I can rest it up and get back to fitness during the week.

“I really did try to stay on, I am one of the last people to want to come off the field, but I couldn’t run.

“Being full-back, that’s not the best, so I asked to come off. I was a weakness in the team, but losing the game hurt more. It’s a double blow, I hate losing and I had to come off injured as well.”

Rhinos led 12-4 for a spell in the first half, but were kept scoreless after half-time and Hardaker admitted: “We’ve got some things to fix up, massively.

“Our performance wasn’t that good at all. In the second half I thought we stepped up a little bit, but we were not good enough.

“Wigan, from last week’s defeat (58-16 at Catalans Dragons), they really turned it up and we weren’t there.

“It’s one of those where we weren’t mentally tough in certain situations. We’re going to have to review it (today) and do the right things through the week.”

Leeds are now facing a fight to hang on to top spot in the table.

“It’s a tough league,” Hardaker reflected.

“It’s a really tight comp this year. We just have to take every game as it comes and try and get the two points.

“We haven’t achieved that this week, but we’ll be back on it on Monday morning, trying to fix things.”

Rhinos are back in action on Sunday, at bottom club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

Asked if that was the sort of game Leeds would want after a damaging defeat, Hardaker admitted: “I’m not sure, you could look at it either way.

“They can be a dangerous team and we are on a down at the moment. We need to fix the things we did wrong. We know if we do that we can beat any team.”

Of his individual performance, Hardaker said: “I hate losing – I just tried and that’s all you can do.

“The team were struggling to get momentum and I was just trying my hardest to get some.

“I did try my best, but obviously my best wasn’t good enough at the end of the day.

“I will review my game on Monday, but it’s a team performance and that comes first. Not to get the two points was a bit devastating.”

Hardaker admitted replacing Sam Tomkins – who will return to Wigan from New Zealand Warriors next season – as England full-back is his “main goal” for the end of the season.

He added: “I keep trying to play my best every week and get the two points for Leeds. I have just got to do my bit on the pitch.

“I’m really enjoying it at the moment and when I enjoy myself I seem to play well, but the team is before me.”