THERE WERE no regrets from boss Brian McDermott after Leeds Rhinos’ attempt to conquer Australia ended in painful defeat.
Rhinos were crushed 38-4 at Melbourne Storm in today’s Downer World Club Challenge – and suffered costly injuries to two key players.
It was a bitterly disappointing end to Rhinos’ week Down Under, but McDermott is adamant the whistlestop tour has been a worthwhile experience.
And he insisted Rhinos would be up for the challenge if they got the opportunity to play in Australia again.
Asked if he’d like to return, the coach insisted: “For sure.”
He said: “It has been great.
“It [visiting Australia] was never a bind for us. I think for the Aussies and Kiwis coming over to England in January it is a massive shock because of the weather.
“For us it is decent and we’ve enjoyed it.
“Logistically, we played on Thursday night, got on a plane on Friday and arrived here on Saturday night to start building up for Melbourne.
“It is a challenge and then we get back and we fall back into Super League.
“It is not easily done, but we don’t have any qualms coming out here.”
McDermott reckons Rhinos will learn valuable lessons from playing one of the sport’s greatest club sides.
It was the fourth time Leeds and Melbourne have met in a world title match and the English team have won just once, but McDermott feels playing at a higher intensity than they are used to in Super League will be good for Rhinos in the long-term.
He added: “I’d like to say, give my team 10 games like that, 10 weeks and by week eight and week nine and week 10 I reckon we’d be up to that level.
“We will learn some massive lessons from that, but it will be another couple of games before we are in a game that’s as intense as that and played at that level.”
Rhinos’ players will begin the long journey home tomorrow and two of the World Club Challenge team are set to miss the Betfred Super League fixture at Widnes Vikings in nine days’ time.
McDermott said full-back Jack Walker will need surgery on a knee problem suffered in the first half at AAMI Park, though he is not expected to be out of action long-term.
Loose-forward Stevie Ward also hobbled off before the break and left the ground in a protective boot.
“It looks like he’s torn a calf,” said the coach.
“I don’t know to what extent, but he has torn something.”
Reflecting on Rhinos’ performance, McDermott admitted “errors killed us”, but he heaped praise on the Australian side’s defence.
“It was outstanding and the longer the game went on, the better they got in D [defence],” McDermott said. “No matter what we tried – and we did come up with some challenging plays – they just smothered it.
“I have got a healthy respect for their defence, it was awesome.”
Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins also felt Leeds made too many mistakes.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, especially in the first half,” he said.
“We gave them too many opportunities and they punished us. They are a formidable team and for us there’s plenty to learn from, but also I am very proud of the effort and attitude we showed.
“We never gave up, we kept on going and kept on playing. Things didn’t come off for us, which was down to their D, but we will learn from this.
“It has been great to be here, we wanted to get that trophy, but it wasn’t to be and we will move on and focus on Super League and Widnes on Sunday.”