AFTER A season of last-gasp defeats, Richie Myler says finally winning one at the death has left Leeds Rhinos in a good place.
Rhinos made it two wins in six days with an 18-16 success against Salford Red Devils at Emerald Headingley three days ago.
Other than against Widnes Vikings, it was Leeds’ first win over Betfred Super League opposition since April and boosts their hopes of a top-three place in the Qualifiers and top-flight rugby next year.
“It’s good to come out on the right end of those results,” Myler said. “We’ve been waiting all year. If they don’t happen at the beginning of the year they always seem to balance themselves out and fortunately it did [on Friday] and we got the win. I thought we were better with the ball, we showed a bit more of what we are about.”
The game was decided on the final play when Myler fainted for a drop goal, but opted to run instead. As he was tackled and the ball came loose referee James Child awarded Leeds a penalty, which Liam Sutcliffe kicked to snatch the points.
Angry Salford coach Ian Watson felt his team were “robbed”. Myler said “It was a slow play-the-ball and a lot of pressure, so I didn’t want to risk it [attempting a one-pointer] with all that pressure.
“I was going to take another one, then James said he went for a swinging arm, that’s why he gave the penalty. It was a swinging arm so we will take that and move on.”
Just moments earlier Rhinos had been defending desperately on their own line. Jansin Turgut and Craig Kopczak both forced their way over, but were held up and then Matt Parcell charged down Robert Lui’s attempted drop goal and – crucially – gathered the loose ball.
Though Watson claimed Salford should have had a potentially game-winning penalty for offside, Myler felt that sort of desperation was a huge positive. He said: “We were up against it, especially when Fez [Brett Ferres, who was sin-binned] went off. The boys dug deep and that’s what we’ve tried to instil in the last two months or so. It’s team first and working hard for the team.
“If we don’t take short cuts and we work hard for one another then we come out on the right end of those results. I reckon maybe eight weeks ago we probably would have lost that, but we showed a bit more about us and hard work does pay off. People were working hard for each other and I’m sure that’s going to be the philosophy all pre-season and into next year.”
A win at Halifax next Sunday could, depending on other results, secure Rhinos’ place in the top-flight next year. Myler insisted Rhinos have a big job to do” at the Shay, but said they are “in a good place mentally now” with some of the anxiety built up over recent weeks removed. Though Halifax have lost their five games so far in the Qualifiers, the half-back insisted Rhinos are in no position to take them lightly.
“I know we won [last week], but it’s not really a performance that we can say ‘let’s put our cue in the rack’,” he said.
“There’s still parts and areas of our game we’re not quite getting right, but we’ve taken massive steps forward, having more of a defensive mindset and working hard for one another.”
This year will mark the end of the Super-8s format following a vote by clubs in favour of automatic promotion and relegation from 2019. Asked whether he is pleased to see the format, which he described as “ridiculous” scrapped, Myler said: “It’s not my position to comment, but the uncertainty of this system is crazy.
“I played in the Million Pound Game last year and it means you may be without a job. I wouldn’t want to be involved in that again. I think if you ask any player they don’t really want that format of not really knowing and any of four teams can go down.
“I think it’s probably fairer if you perform badly all year and you finish bottom you probably should go down. That’s just the way it is, I think.” Remarkably, Rhinos under-19s won 18-16 thanks to an 80th-minute penalty goal against London Broncos on Saturday.
Billy Jowitt landed the winning kick – his third goal – after tries by Harvey Whiteley, Liam Hamill and Ben Markland.