TONIGHT’S VISITORS Huddersfield Giants have been one of Leeds Rhinos’ bogey clubs over recent seasons and winger Tom Briscoe is expecting another tense encounter.
Giants are on the back of a 20-6 home loss to Catalans Dragons in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup eight days ago, but that will make them more dangerous, Briscoe reckons.
The Cup defeat was Simon Woolford’s debut as Huddersfield coach and tonight will be his first Betfred Super League game in charge.
Huddersfield were at a low ebb when they faced Rhinos at John Smith’s Stadium earlier in the season, but produced a battling performance to secure a 22-22 draw.
That was Chris Thorman’s debut as caretaker-boss and Giants’ form has improved since then.
Briscoe predicted: “It’ll be a tough game. It always is against Huddersfield, especially on the back of how they played last weekend.
It’ll be a tough game. It always is against Huddersfield, especially on the back of how they played last weekend. We know we’re in for a big game, previous history says that anyway.Tom Briscoe
“I think they’ll be up for a big reaction from that. Whenever you get beaten like that you always want to respond well and put that defeat to bed.
“We know we’re in for a big game, previous history says that anyway.
“We will have to be better defensively than we were last week and hopefully our attack can gel like it did against Leigh and we can show a bit more of that.”
Giants have won their last three Super League games, boosting their hopes of a place in the Super-8s this year.
“They are a good side,” Briscoe added.
“They are very strong, very physical and the last time we played them, over there, they kicked long and were really revved up to keep us within our own half.
“We struggled a bit with that so we know we need to be better in that area to get ourselves on the front foot and give ourselves a bit of a better chance.”
Rhinos scored nine tries in the 52-22 Cup win over Leigh last Friday and Briscoe said that performance has given confidence a lift.
“Definitely in our attack,” he said. “We seemed to gel a bit better, our combinations went well and we scored some very exciting and good long-range tries as well.
“They weren’t just in good ball [near the opposition’s line] so that was pleasing.
“But on the flip side of that, they only had a few opportunities and they seemed to score every time they got on our line.
“We know they were soft tries and we need to be better at that this week, otherwise we will be in trouble.”
The strong defence Rhinos were known for earlier in the season has faded in recent weeks, but Briscoe insisted: “I don’t think it’s a concern at the minute, more just a bit of a heads-up to switch back on to that.
“We’ve maybe not been putting as much focus on that and it has dropped a bit.
“That was a very good area for us earlier this season and over the last few seasons so to concede a few tries in recent weeks is disappointing.
“We know we need to fix that up.”
Rhinos have a five-point gap over ninth-placed Salford Red Devils and are a similar distance behind Castleford Tigers, in fourth.
A win tonight would revive Leeds’ hopes of forcing their way into the top-four, but if they lose they could be in danger of being dragged towards the middle-eights. “We need to manage this spell where we’ve got a few players out,” Briscoe warned. “I think the boys who have come in have done a great job. We just need to be a bit better in certain areas.
“We have been playing well in glimpses and I thought last week on attack we seemed to get it right for the majority of the game, but defensively on our line we seemed to come unstuck a bit too easily.”
Briscoe is one of a host of Rhinos players coming out of contract at the end of this season. Now 28, he has scored 53 tries in 112 appearances – all in the starting lineup – since joining Leeds from Hull ahead of the 2014 season.
Winger turned centre Ash Handley yesterday became the first player in the last year of his contract to sign a new deal. Briscoe confirmed he is “in talks” with the club and added: “I’m looking to stay.
“I am happy here and settled. I said when I first came here I want to win silverware and that hasn’t changed. I believe this club is still the place I can do that.”