THERE WAS a time when Leeds Rhinos against London Broncos would have been almost a guaranteed home win, but that is not the case tomorrow.
Broncos will travel to Emerald Headingley, for the first time since 2014, with no pressure on them and nothing to lose – in stark contrast to the home side’s situation.
With Rhinos beginning the Betfred Super League round second bottom in the table, ahead of Huddersfield Giants thanks to a nine-point advantage on for and against, tonight is a fixture they have to win.
Promoted London, coached by Rhinos old boy Danny Ward, have already won twice this season, at home to Wakefield Trinity and Wigan Warriors.
Victory this evening would lift them four points clear of Leeds with both teams having played seven games, almost a quarter of the league campaign.
“The next two games are very important for us because we haven’t been getting the results we want,” said Rhinos’ young front-rower Mikolaj Oledzki.
We have had parts during games where we haven’t been up to our standards, but we are working on it and it will come.Mikolaj Oledzki
“We haven’t been at our best, we haven’t shown our potential.
“It is disappointing for us, but we are back at home and we have got a second chance to make this ground a tough place to come to for other teams.
“The lads came in this week fresh and wanting to put things right so it is going to be a big game.”
London finished second in the Championship last year and were promoted after winning against the odds at Toronto Wolfpack in the Million Pound Game.
They have yet to pick up a victory on the road this season and have been nilled twice, at Salford Red Devils and St Helens last week.
But, following the successes against Wakefield and Wigan – two teams Leeds have lost to – on their own pitch in Ealing, Oledzki insisted Rhinos will be fully on their guard.
London are Super League’s second-lowest points scorers and only Leeds have conceded more, but Rhinos’ poor form also ensures there can be no room for complacency and Oledzki insisted: “You can’t underestimate any team in this league.
“There has been a lot of results that have shocked people. You have to prepare well and put out the best performance possible.
“London are a tough team and they have had a few good results so our mindset is to get out there and expect a very tough game.”
Rhinos have played London twice since Broncos were relegated five years ago, both away wins in the middle-eights Qualifiers.
On each occasion, in 2016 and last season, Rhinos built a big lead by the hour mark and then switched off allowing London to run in a series of late tries.
That is another warning, but Oledzki is confident they will be a match for any team when they play well.
He said: “We have had parts during games where we haven’t been up to our standards, but we are working on it and it will come.
“This week we are going to try and do our thing, do the stuff we’ve practised and, hopefully, the result will come.”
Oledzki has played in five of Rhinos’ six competitive fixtures this year, but missed their only win so far – at Salford – when he had a hip injury.
He got his first start under coach Dave Furner last week in the defeat at Hull and said: “I am trying to do my best for the team and put 100 per cent effort into every game. We need a good team performance. At the moment, I don’t think anyone’s concentrating on themselves; the aim is to play well as a team and fix up the stuff we need to fix up.”
Of his start a week ago, he added: “I just get on with it!
“I try to do my best when I start and when I come off the bench.
“For me there’s not much difference. I still get to go on the field and carry the ball and tackle people.
“It was good, I think every forward’s aim is to start and, hopefully, it is the start of something good for me.”
Oledzki did not start playing rugby league until his teens and has since made rapid progress, including caps for England at academy and Knights level.
He is still very young for a Super League prop and said: “Sometimes I forget I am only 20 and I want to do more than I should and that I am capable of.
“I am still learning and I have got a lot of things to pick up.
“At the moment, I think I am heading in the right direction and, hopefully, there are good things coming.”