THE SUPER-8S format has earned the backing of Leeds Rhinos full-back Liam Sutcliffe.
Rhinos have won their opening two games in the Qualifiers, a competition involving the bottom four from First Utility Super League and the Kingstone Press Championship’s leading quartet.
All eight teams are scrapping to be in the elite competition next year and Sutcliffe said it has given Super League clubs outside Grand Final contention something to aim for.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s something to play for in both halves of the table. In the old structure, if you were in the bottom half there was nothing to play for for the rest of the year.
“Now it’s a battle for survival, it gives you something to play for and something to go for at the end of the year. I know there’s no trophy at the end of it, but it is still something to fight for and we want to come top of the middle-eights.”
Leeds’ 22-18 win over Hull KR three days ago moved them a step closer to a top-flight return. They lead the middle-eights table on points difference from Leigh Centurions and Sutcliffe said: “It was massively important to get the win.
“From our point of view it was a bit scrappy. We weren’t happy with how we handled the ball, but we had to stand up in defence and we managed to do that.
“If you look at our scramble on the goal line and the amount of sets we had to defend, it is credit to all the boys, especially the forwards who kept working hard.
“Credit to Hull KR, they kept fighting and managed to put us on the back foot a fair few times, but we managed to keep them out.”
A late brace of tries by James Segeyaro made the difference and Sutcliffe described the former NRL hooker of the year’s influence as “massive”.
He said: “He has been great for us, the amount of D [defence] he does and what he does with the ball is exceptional. It is something we’ve been looking for and hopefully he can keep on playing well and we can keep getting wins.”
Sutcliffe, who switched from stand-off to full-back two months ago, also earned praise from coach Brian McDermott for his efforts, particularly in defence. He said: “I am really enjoying it at the moment. The more I train and play there, the more I am getting used to it. There’s still a fair few things to work on if I am going to play full-back for the rest of this year, but that’s something I am really looking forward to working on in training and trying to put right in games.”
Rhinos face a test on Saturday at London Broncos, who will be in confident mood following a 76-16 home drubbing of Batley Bulldogs two days ago.
Sutcliffe insisted: “We are treating every game the same. We aren’t preparing for a Championship team or a Super League team, we’re just preparing for a really tough game. Training-wise, nothing really changes. We work hard all week and we’re ready to go on game night.”