IT COULD be a month before Leeds Rhinos hit anything like top form, coach Brian McDermott has suggested.
Rhinos take on Warrington Wolves tonight in their opening home game of First Utility Super League, five days after kicking off their campaign with a 34-6 win at Hull KR.
McDermott has challenged his players to build on that performance, but insisted he doesn’t expect – or want – them to be firing on all cylinders just yet.
Said McDermott: “If we can stay injury-free I think it will take us maybe four or five rounds before we get to a place where we’ve planned to be. We’ve spent all-season trying to look like something and it might take us five rounds to get there. But different players and different positions, a couple of injuries here and there and having to adapt, all those things will get thrown into the mix.
“We are not rushing and we are not overly keen to be in the best form just yet. But we want to keep being very industrious – and I thought that was a very industrious performance against Hull KR last week.”
He added: “There were some flashes of brilliance from individuals, but a lot of hard work went into that. I am pretty happy with our work ethic at the moment.
“It is about a steady progression. I think if we had beaten Hull KR 50-0 that would have posed more problems and questions for us, about how we’d manage that, where do we improve and the players’ motivation to improve.”
A scrappy first half last week saw the sides go into the break locked at 6-6, but Leeds ran in six unanswered tries as they dominated the second period.
McDermott felt his team were made to work harder for the win than the result suggests and that will stand them in good stead for tonight.
“We got a bit of everything,” he said. “We got a tough work-out for 60 minutes. We weren’t great, but to be fair I don’t think anybody is all-singing and all-dancing for the first game, or would want to be. We had a tough enough battle and got enough out of it in terms of game fitness and on the run we corrected some of the looseness we had in the first half. We tightened up in the second half and looked pretty good for periods.”
McDermott stressed he isn’t taking any comfort from Warrington’s opening 38-8 home defeat by St Helens eight days ago.
“They will be different against us,” he predicted. “They will be better than they were last week for sure and we are going to prepare for the best of Warrington.”
Wolves have lost Adrian Morley, Lee Briers, Garreth Carvell and Mike Cooper from the team which hammered Rhinos 40-20 in a play-off tie last September, but McDermott doesn’t regard them as a weaker side this term.
“People made mention of that when we lost Ali Lauitiiti, Danny Buderus and Keith Senior,” he recalled. “Squads evolve and move on. They have still got the same playing philosophy and playing staff. They are still going to be one of the big threats and one of the main competitors for honours this year.”
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Hall, Moon, McGuire, Sinfield, Singleton, Burrow, Peacock, Delaney, Ablett, Clarkson, Leuluai, Aiton, Bailey, Achurch, Jones-Bishop, Ward.
Warrington from: Ratchford, Ormsby, Bridge, Atkins, J Monaghan, M Monaghan, Myler, Hill, Higham, Asotasi, Waterhouse, Westwood, Currie, O’Brien, Laithwaite, Evans, Grix, England, Dwyer.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.