LET’S WIN it for Jonesy!
That is Leeds Rhinos’ battle cry for tonight’s final game of the season, at home to Warrington Wolves.
Rhinos have nothing to play for in the Betfred Super League table, but club legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s will captain the team in his last appearance before he hangs up his boots.
The 38-year-old is one of the longest-serving and most decorated players in Leeds’ history and coach Richard Agar insisted he deserves to finish as a winner.
“We want to win and all the boys are saying ‘we want to do it for Jonesy’,” Agar stressed.
“I thought his performance last week was remarkable.
“The way he and Wardy [Stevie Ward] came back was the type of attitude we want.”
Jones-Buchanan was a try scorer in the 20-12 loss to Salford Red Devils seven days ago, his first game since May, while Ward played 58 minutes after being sidelined for six months.
Tonight’s fixture is Agar’s first since being confirmed as head coach for 2020 earlier this week.
Leeds are set to finish eighth in the table and Agar stressed: “We want to make it all about Jonesy, but it is important for us in terms of knowing where we are at.
“We’ve played teams in the top-four and put ourselves in a position to win, but not nailed it.
“We haven’t nailed our execution in a number of areas.
“For me, as a coach, I am really happy with the effort.
“Defensively, for long periods of our games this year, we have been really good and really solid on our tryline.
“We have looked like we’ve got some resilience there and I am chuffed to bits with the strides we’ve made in that but, overall, we have fallen short in two or three games when, undoubtedly, we should have picked at least one or two of them up.
“We want to go out and do that in front of our own fans.”
Rhinos’ season began with a 26-6 defeat at Warrington seven months ago and this evening will be the sides’ first meeting since then.
The Wolves suffered six successive Super League defeats either side of their shock Coral Challenge Cup final win over St Helens, but got back on track against Wakefield Trinity a week ago.
They are battling to secure a high finish in the table as well as preparing for a play-offs campaign and Agar – a former Warrington assistant-coach – reckons they will throw everything at Rhinos.
“They were off form for a number of weeks but they had a lot of challenges in terms of terms selection and injuries,” he observed.
“The team that played against Wakefield last week looked a bit more like their old selves and they will be wanting to time their run into the play-offs really well.
“They are a team full of outstanding, expensive players, so it will be a big challenge.”
A sub plot tonight will involve Rhinos winger Ash Handley, who is Super League’s joint-leading try scorer, tied on 22 with Salford’s Niall Evalds.
St Helens’ Tommy Makinson is on 20, with his team-mate Regan Grace one further behind, while Warrington’s Blake Austin is fifth with 18 touchdowns.
Salford are at home to relegation-threatened Hull KR this evening, when St Helens visit Hull.