Leeds Rhinos: McDermott could have six fresh faces back for semi-final

Brian McDermott
Brian McDermott
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LEEDS RHINOS could have half a dozen players back for Saturday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves.

Six players – Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Jamie Peacock, Carl Ablett and Stevie Ward – who had featured against Salford Red Devils the week before missed last Friday’s 20-14 home loss to Bradford Bulls.

Hall and Watkins were rested, Moon (knee), Peacock (back) and Ablett (elbow) were left out of the initial 19 due to minor injuries and Ward was a late withdrawal after suffering what McDermott described as a “niggle” in Thursday’s final training run.

“They have all got a good chance,” the Leeds boss said of their prospects of returning on Saturday. “No apologies, some of them were rested for this week, but some of them needed a rest as well – it wasn’t just because of the semi-final. Kallum, who has played every game since Easter - in particular.”

McDermott had no complaints about his team’s “desire and effort” in Friday’s defeat, but admitted: “The amount of possession we lost made it almost impossible for us to win the game.

“We didn’t lose the game because we rested people, it was dropped ball that cost us the game and there were some naive carries and naive passages of play in wet conditions.”

With St Helens – who began the round two points ahead of Leeds in top spot – suffering a surprise loss at Hull, McDermott conceded Rhinos’ sixth defeat of the campaign was a “missed opportunity”.

But despite his disappointment at the result, McDermott was pleased for his former assistant James Lowes, who has now masterminded successive victories over Wigan Warriors and Leeds.

“Well done Jim, he has turned them around over a short period of time,” McDermott said of the Bradford coach.

“In terms of emotion and desire to win, they certainly had that. Jimmy has certainly brought something to them, already. Defensively they were on. They didn’t give us an inch to move and they played the conditions very well.

“I thought we were strong defensively ourselves. We are not wiping this one off, I know there are a lot of frustrated people and people wanted to win, me included, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen.

“Whenever I sense there’s a lack of effort or desire I’ll start getting worried, but we’ll wear this one on the chin.”