THE SHOCKING capitulation in their final game of the regular season left Leeds Rhinos’ players scratching their heads, but hooker Matt Parcell says answers have to be quickly found.
Rhinos’ hopes of ending their Betfred Super League campaign on a high were shattered when they crashed 38-22 at Salford Red Devils three days ago.
Salford finished second from bottom, two places below Leeds and will be among Rhinos’ opponents in the middle-eights Qualifiers which begin next week.
Rhinos scored after 70 seconds, but found themselves 22-6 behind at the end of the first quarter and never looked capable of fighting back despite seeing the hosts reduced to 12 men when Lee Mossop was sent-off.
Parcell – who was one of Leeds’ few success stories, coming off the bench to set up one try and score another – admitted nobody in the camp had seen that performance coming after two positive displays.
“I don’t really know what to make of that,” said Parcell. “We started poorly. There was a period when I thought we were going to get back into it, but then we let in two pretty soft tries in the second half.
“It was always going to be tough. Jackson [Hastings] has come over and he obviously wanted to put in a good performance for them and he did.
“Salford played well, but we should have done a lot better.
“Our start was really poor, it invited them to be good and they were.
“The only positive to come from it is we did it [on Friday] and not in a couple of weeks’ time.”
It is going to be tough. We are going to have to put in good performances. We’ve had a bit of a wake-up call.Matt Parcell
As well as Salford, Rhinos will face Super League rivals Hull KR and Widnes Vikings in the Qualifiers, plus Toronto Wolfpack, Toulouse Olympique, London Broncos and Halifax from the Betfred Championship.
Leeds won six of their seven middle-eights fixtures in 2016, the year before Parcell joined the club.
The defeat at Salford came a week after they had crushed Widnes 34-0, but thoughts Leeds would ease through the Qualifiers have gone out of the window.
“I think after that everyone maybe got a bit ahead of themselves and thought it was going to be a bit cruisy,” Parcell added.
“Friday showed it’s not, it is going to be tough. We are going to have to put in good performances. We’ve had a bit of a wake-up call.”
Of the mood after last week’s game, Parcell said: “Everyone’s disappointed, but we’ll be all right. We have got a massive game this week and then a massive two months coming up.”
Before the relegation battle begins Rhinos have a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final to deal with, against Warrington Wolves at Macron Stadium, Bolton, on Sunday afternoon. That is a tall order, but Parcell insisted: “I think this week we will be all right.
“There’s so much on the line and in our team a lot of guys have been there before and played in big games.
“I don’t think that [motivation for the semi-final] will be a problem.”
Jordan Thompson, signed from Leigh Centurions, was on debut at Salford a week after Dom Crosby made his first appearance on loan from Warrington.
“I thought they were really good,” Parcell observed. “They were probably two of our best in defence and that’s what we need.
“We need a couple of guys to stand up and be a bit intimidating.”
Parcell has been a substitute in the last two games after suffering an elbow injury in the defeat at Castleford Tigers earlier this month.
He said: “I probably came back a bit earlier than I should have, but it has been pretty good. Once it’s strapped up it feels pretty good. It is all right, it’s just when you take the strapping off it’s a bit sore, but I’ll be fine.”