LEEDS RHINOS are top of the Betfred Qualifiers with one round remaining in the season. Here are five talking points ahead of Friday’s visit of Toronto Wolfpack:
1: The tide has turned Rhinos’ way over the last couple of weeks, after things had gone against them all season. Brad Singleton’s two-match ban is a blow to a team already desperately lacking forward power, but the controversial last-gasp win over Salford Red Devils was followed by all three of their top-flight rivals losing last weekend and, suddenly, not just safety, but top spot in the Qualifiers, is in Rhinos’ own hands. Effectively ninth in Betfred Super League is not much to shout about, but ending the year with four wins would be a minor positive.
2: In terms of getting a taste of first-team action, some of Rhinos’ academy prospects are victims of their own success. Director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has confirmed he was considering giving several youngsters a call-up this weekend, but Leeds’ Under-19s are in their Grand Final at Wigan Warriors on Friday night. That is a terrific achievement for the players and Rob Burrow in his first year as coach and it suggests better things may be around the corner after what has been a disastrous campaign for the senior side.
3: That said, the first half at Halifax last week highlighted how much work Sinfield and incoming coach Dave Furner have to do over the next four months. After a bright start, Rhinos were outplayed for 20 minutes by the team which finished fourth in the Betfred Championship and their lack of leadership and creativity was obvious. More quality is urgently needed. If some of this year’s long-term casualties – particularly Kallum Watkins, Mitch Garbutt and Stevie Ward – stay fit that will help, but several more signings are required because the squad is not strong enough to compete for trophies again.
4: Brad Dwyer turned the game against Halifax and has been a stand-out since Sinfield returned to the club. He had a tough first half of the season and his form since shows the value of confidence and being given an opportunity.
5: Jimmy Keinhorst’s move to Hull KR will be confirmed soon. They are getting a good player, who is versatile, skilful with the ball and strong in defence. It’s a shame he did not get more chances at Leeds.