JAMIE JONES-BUCHANAN says a visit from legendary former captain Kevin Sinfield helped pep up Leeds Rhinos for their win against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
They prospered 32-6 at Belle Vue on Friday, the first time the champions have delivered consecutive triumphs this season.
Even though they remain bottom of Super League, Leeds are certainly making progress, having won 8-0 against Salford Red Devils the week before, too.
Among other things, catching up with Sinfield – who left after leading them to the title in October and has recently retired after short spell with Yorkshire Carnegie – has aided their cause.
“Kevin Sinfield came in during the week and we had a little chat,” explained second-row Jones-Buchanan.
“All the lads were buzzing about seeing him as well and did some reminiscing.
“It’s been a good week and we were happy to win which is the most important thing.
“The lads toughed it out. It’s no coincidence that these last two or three weeks we’ve been really, really good in training with the intensity, the communication and the spirit.
“Everyone’s buzzing. We’re back in our training ground, too, which is great.
“It means we can get in, rip in like werewolves and that’s all started to come to fruition.
“We’re back where we need to be be. We’re not out of the woods – we have to keep building and there’s a lot of things still to improve on like in attack.
“We scored 32 points at Wakefield and I know a few of those came from kicks but once the points went over and we started getting further in front, we started to play with more confidence. We started to see little bit of Leeds of yesteryear.”
Rhinos’ defence has clearly improved with Brian McDermott’s side conceding just one try in the last 160 minutes of action.
Six-times Grand Final winner Jones-Buchanan believes that has occurred due to some simple changes to their style. “We’ve tweaked two or three things in defence which makes a massive difference,” said the 34-year-old, who made his acting debut on Saturday in the play Leeds Lads at Carriageworks Theatre.
He continued: “It allowed us to get more numbers into the tackle and be more aggressive.
“I think it’s contagious and exponential; once someone gets in and puts in a good shot, everyone revs up and the enthusiasm and energy comes from nowhere.
“Energy can’t be destroyed. It can only be converted into something else and at the minute it’s been converted into some really quality stuff.”
Leeds also saw the return from injury of two England internationals – full-back Zak Hardaker and winger Ryan Hall which instantly made them stronger.
“Zak Hardaker had some great defensive moments,” admitted Jones-Buchanan.
“He’s usually known for offence under that high ball in the wet weather he was fantastic.
“But I’ve been saying to Hally for weeks that I can’t wait to turn around again and see him return the ball.
“He had some great moments with those and, with those extra tweaks, and world-class players coming back, it’s really helping.”
By the time they next step out in Super League against Widnes Vikings at Headingley a week on Sunday – Rhinos have no game this week as it is the Challenge Cup quarter-finals – they should have fellow England international Carl Ablett back as well.