Leeds Rhinos: Saints’ cup threat not lost on Watkins

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PLAYER OF the month nominee Kallum Watkins reckons Leeds Rhinos are going into tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final in the right sort of form.

But he is also aware that will count for very little when the Cup holders face old enemy St Helens with a place at Wembley up for grabs.

Kallum Watkins

Kallum Watkins

After a mid-season slump, Rhinos have won five of their past six matches – the defeat being by two points to a last-gasp penalty goal at Wigan Warriors.

Rhinos have scored 106 points in their last two games, conceding 28 and Watkins reckons the 36-22 home victory over Catalans Dragons last weekend was just what they needed ahead of tomorrow.

“We managed to get a good result against a tough Catalans side,” he said. “They are a big side and they brought a couple of players back from injury, which was going to make it tough for us, but there were moments when we were very good and we managed to get a great result.

“It is really important to go into the semi-final playing well and Catalans were a good test for us. Their away form hasn’t been up to scratch or where they want it to be, but we remember from last year how well they can play.

“It was close at home last time in the league and they beat us in the play-offs, so we knew we had to perform well. We did that for most of the game.

“There were some moments when we weren’t as good, but a lot of credit for that has to go to Catalans. They are a great side and they can punish you if you aren’t doing the right things. But it was a great result and it’ll give us massive confidence going into such a huge game on Friday.”

Having said that, Watkins stressed tomorrow’s tie will come down to who handles the pressure best on the night.

He said. “We are going into the game in pretty good form and that goes out the window, but I don’t think confidence does. Confidence in your ability and your teammates’ ability is a huge aspect going into a big match like a semi-final.”

Two big wins over Saints this year and their status as league leaders will make Rhinos favourites to reach Wembley, but Watkins said: “We have gone into semi-finals a few times as underdogs and won.

“You are there for a reason and you’ve earned the right to be there, so it doesn’t really matter whether you are favourites or underdogs. If you are willing to perform at a high level and manage to get the right result, you get the rewards for it.

“We have done that a lot in the past. It doesn’t matter how people see it, it’s what goes on during the week and on Friday night. We have to play well and we are looking forward to seeing a very determined Saints team who will want to put things right against us.

“That’s a huge thing we need to deal with.”

Of his player of the month nomination, Watkins said: “It’s always an honour to be nominated for something like that and very pleasing.

“But the most important thing is how the team’s going.”